My Worst Visual Memory


My fellow pediatric residents at a municipal hospital in NYC in the mid-70s probably remember this horrible story very well.

A child was brought to the emergency room with extensive burns to one side of the face. She must have been two or three years old. The smell of burned flesh and hair was horrific and her pain was beyond belief. The other doctors and I had to hold back our tears as best as we could.

My job was to take a history from the mother who had accompanied the child in the ambulance. She told me that because the child had “misbehaved,” the father tied her to the bedroom radiator. When the heat later came on later at night, the right side of the child’s face was stuck between the radiator and the wall, and she wasn’t able to move away from the heat. By the time that her mother realized that her right eye and cheek had been melted away and scorched, it was too late.

This child became a long-term patient on the pediatric ward. She required numerous plastic surgical procedures and was eventually fitted with a removable prosthesis which fit well into the reconstructed area of her face. It had a beautiful false eye which matched well with her other side.

One time as she was playing in the children’s playroom, she became angry at one of the other children.  In a fit of rage, she yanked off her facial prosthesis and threw it on the floor. There it sat for a minute, staring up at us with that almost realistic-looking eye, until her nurse picked it up and replaced it.

I’ve often wondered how a child or for that matter anyone could ever recover from such a horrible intentional act of violence.

I can still picture that eye and cheek lying on the floor. Not my favorite visual memory! 

One thought on “My Worst Visual Memory

  1. Your recollections are always poignant, hitting our emotional buttons. But it’s your professional writing style that gives your personal experiences a universal appeal.


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