Julio was a nervous boy, and his anesthesia started at 11:43.

Dr. M, the anesthesiologist I was shadowing, explained that this was not Julio’s first time in the hospital. Far from it. He had been through a lot—unexplained seizures, a brain tumor diagnosis, excisional surgery, and chemo. In comparison, his visit today was minor: a restaging MRI. But Dr. M said Julio had been nervous the last time and would probably be today. He needed to be perfectly still for imaging, so he needed general anesthesia.

We walked into his room at 11:00. Sitting on the bed—no, crouching—was Spiderman. He looked up as we entered and flicked some imaginary webs at us. Dr. M’s hands flailed in an exaggerated backstroke motion. With her hands up, she reintroduced herself and asked if she could approach the tiny superhero. He looked at the other person in the room, his sister Marietta, and...

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