The next day, at 8.30 a.m., Stan had not appeared at work. His home phone was not answering. At 9 a.m. the police rang to say he was dead.
It was my first three months in charge of an ED, and there was already a resident medical officer suicide. It wasn’t even discussed at an administrative level but barely a month goes by without me recalling that day.
The funeral was held three days later. Stan’s wife and his two daughters, aged two and three, gathered with a huge ethnic community that filled the suburban Catholic church. Wonderful words were spoken about Stan and his commitment to medicine. Nothing was said about what drove him to end his life, or the conditions he had to endure at hospital.
Later, the other residents told me that Stan, like many others, occasionally raided the after-hours drug cupboard for sleepers…
Watch Dr Bryan Walpole re-tell Stan:
Stan by Dr Bryan Walpole appears in EMERGENCY: Real Stories from Australia’s ED Doctors, available now from Penguin Books Australia.