Today the New York Times published an article by Dr. Stefan Friedrichsdorf, medical director of Children’s Minnesota Department of Pain Medicine, Palliative Care and Integrative Medicine. The story is part of “The End” series, which features essays from people who work in fields that deal with providing care and support at the end of life, as well as stories from people who have lost loved ones.
Dr. Friedrichsdorf’s essay tells the story of Ethan Butler and his family. Ethan was born with a congenital heart defect and had heart surgery at just 10 days old. Unfortunately, he suffered a major stroke during the complicated surgery, leaving him with very limited brain function and needing to be on a ventilator. Knowing that Ethan wasn’t likely to survive beyond a few days or weeks, Ethan’s family had one request — a promise that he would be comfortable. Dr. Friedrichsdorf worked with Ethan’s family to provide palliative care at home and also encouraged the family to make memories with him.
Although Ethan’s life was short, he was able to spend precious time with his family — with his parents, sisters and grandparents, visiting Minnehaha Falls and more. And his family was at peace knowing that he did not live, or die, in pain.