I’ve tried to write about something else for this column, but Rory’s face keeps appearing in my mind. I’m sure he secretly filled my head with writer’s block so that I’d eventually realize I had to write about him.

He was a very persistent boy was Rory.

He was my nephew, Rory Staunton, who died two years ago on April 1, 2012 from sepsis, a disease I had never heard of until that day.

He was all of 12, my sister Orlaith and brother-in-law Ciaran’s pride and joy, a wonderful Irish red head and great brother to his little sister Kathleen.

He died in NYU Langone Medical Center surrounded by those who loved him and by wonderful doctors and nurses in the intensive care unit.

If only the same nurses and doctors had been available when he first went to the hospital emergency room where he was misdiagnosed fatally as having a stomach upset and sent home.

If only his pediatrician had realized his vomiting and leg pain and mottled skin was more than a passing stomach flu.

If only.

Sepsis is not fatal if caught early. It can be very successfully treated with antibiotics. This is not brain cancer.

Every hour you miss decreases the patient’s life chances by seven percent. They caught Rory too late.

Don’t take my word for it. NYU Langone has apologized, and an investigative report by Jim Dwyer in The New York Times identified at least seven moments where the wrong decision was made in Rory’s case. A New York State report from the Department of Health found NYU negligent in almost every respect.

Simple things, like checking his blood test (not done), checking why his heart was beating at close to 150 beats a minute (not done).

Anyway. I could go on.

I will never forget that Sunday, the moment the doctor came in to the waiting room to tell us he had passed.

Your life leads up to and away from such moments. Unreality takes over. Did he just say Rory had died, or when will I awake from this horrible dream?

This is a kid I had cheerfully argued with over fracking in his dad’s Molly Bloom’s bar just a few days before, a kid who scraped his elbow playing basketball.

Now he had died of that cut.

This was always someone else who suffered that kind of tragedy. The death of a child makes for dramatic headlines.

But surely such sadness would never knock on my door?


When I see dreadful tragedies now, like what the Gill family suffered in the Bronx last October when their innocent 15-year-old daughter Kalie was killed by a runaway automobile, I feel some of the pain and shock that family must be going through.

There is no sensation like the death of a child. You are programmed to accept the death of your parents, even your spouse, but never your child.

As Ciaran says, there is not even a word like widow or widower to cover it.

I wish I could tell you there is a day you don’t think about it, or you have “moved on,” that catchall phrase used all the time.

But there isn’t. You are in a different landscape, forever an unfamiliar one, where grief and memories are always only moments away.

I inhabit a different world since the death of my nephew. All changed, changed utterly as WB Yeats says.

But not for the best.