- This is in answer to:
- Name something you'd like to learn more about. See all answers
- December 27, 2011 by wondering
- Why my brother died - we may never know
OK, so, to start with, this is not very imaginative of Plinky, since this very same prompt came up earlier this year. I know, because I answered it and you can read my answer on Plinky or here:
But I thought I'd respond again, firstly to say that my earlier post, about black holes and other things I don't know enough about, is one of my favourite posts. For no particular reason - I just really enjoyed writing it.
But secondly, I was prompted to respond because of the contrast in my outlook on life, caused by events that have occurred in the short time since that rather light-hearted post. Now what I'd like to learn more about is, why my younger brother died suddenly, 3 and a half months ago.
My brother was 33 and had no health problems. He died in his sleep on a Friday night in early September.
Now I know that, to you, a stranger, reading this, my brother is just an abstract idea. Even if he was alive, he would just be a faceless person mentioned in someone else’s blog. Dead, he is a faceless person mentioned in someone else’s blog, who died. I can’t, and don't, expect you to invest emotion in the fact that he is no longer around. But here's how it is for me.
I can still hear his voice. I can still see his broad, cheeky grin. I can still recall his laid-back, easy-going, good-natured presence, and how I loved his company. Just like the people that you know and love, every day for the last 33 years, I took it for granted that he was alive and would be for many more years, but suddenly, with no warning and no apparent reason or explanation, he was not here any more. When I was told that he had died, he literally vanished from my life – I never laid eyes on him again.
So naturally my parents, my other brothers and my sister and I had a huge shock. We've been waiting for the report from the autopsy, as if it might offer some answers to our confused questions, but it was not until the fortnight before Christmas that my parents finally heard from the coroner. They received a death certificate, which listed the cause of death as "inconclusive". They also received a letter outlining why it was inconclusive, and positing a probable cause of death, based on having excluded other causes. In other words, the forensic team were making an educated guess.
According to the letter, it is highly probable that the cause of death was a seizure, leading to suffocation. In regards to what caused the seizure, again, I assume, they could only make an educated guess. Since he was a perfectly healthy person with no history of any medical condition, and there is no history of seizures in our family, they focused on his lifestyle. They referred in their letter to a link between alcohol consumption and seizure. However, confusingly, they also sent a fact sheet about a little-known genetic condition that could cause seizures, and a letter saying that any siblings and close relatives should be referred for a check up, and finally, a letter asking for permission to have a sample of his blood (“no more than a tablespoon”) used in some medical trials in Sydney and Denmark.
These documents were handed to me to read on Christmas day. Having read over them, I remained as confused about what had caused his death as I had been before. I really couldn't decide whether the forensic team had reached a conclusion or not.
As it turns out, it seems science can’t answer everything either. This, of course, is not breaking news. Science is always about hypothesizing on the most likely explanation until it is proven to be untrue. So it seems we are left with a hypothetical explanation of what is most likely to have caused my brother to die that Friday night. In our minds, as time passes, that will become the definitive reason, as it is unlikely that is will ever be proven untrue.
But actually, truth be told, I don’t know that I really care after all. It was just something to focus on, in the hope of getting an answer, when there is so much that can’t be known or understood about someone you love dying suddenly.
To me, the much bigger issue is that my brother has died. Knowing what caused his death is not going to change that.