Monday, 20 April 2015

Tired

"I'm so tired." - Lili von Shtupp, Blazing Saddles
I'm fucking tired.  Not sick and tired, just tired.  Sometimes it feels like I haven't had a good night's sleep in years, though that's probably a gross exaggeration - it's more like decades.  The day after I'm on call (especially a rough one where the Call Gods have their deranged fun at my expense), I'm less than useless.  My eyes constantly feel like they're being dragged down to the floor harder than Yoko Ono dragged down the Beatles.

I don't sleep enough, and even when I do it usually isn't good quality sleep.  I constantly worry about my patients, and I constantly worry about my children.  I don't worry about myself much at all - Mrs. Bastard takes care of that for me.  Of course, that doesn't leave anybody to worry about her, but don't feel too bad for her - she's a very tough lady, as her bout with pneumonia last year clearly demonstrated.

Anyway, my brain always runs at full speed, and that isn't conducive to anything even remotely resembling real rest (alliteration is cool).  Naps are out of the question - I invariably wake up more tired than when I went to sleep, completely defeating the purpose.  So I don't even bother trying.  I think the last time I took a nap, bell-bottoms were in style.  The first time.

Oftentimes when I'm not-as-tired-as-usual, I find my awake-self talking to my nearly-asleep-self, since at least I know I'll be good conversation.  Some time back I started keeping a log of things that Awake Doc says to Sleepy Doc (with apologies to Disney for hijacking two of their dwarves' names).  What follows are the things I wish I could say to myself as I find myself slipping into a sleep deprivation coma.

"The light is green. Go, idiot."
I haven't fallen asleep at the wheel in over 10 years (and fortunately that was at a red light), but the prospect of doing so again scares the shit out of me.  The last thing I want to do is end up a trauma patient in my own hospital.  Or any other hospital for that matter.  Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, so I try not to do it.  If I find myself falling asleep, I pull over for a few minutes.  And I always try to have a coffee before I leave.  Speaking of which . . .

"No, don't pour that into your coffee.  What do you mean 'Why not?'  Because it's orange juice, dumbass."
I've done this.  Believe me, it isn't pleasant.

"Stop mixing up your children's names."
One is a girl, the other is a boy.  Neither name is androgynous, they don't start with the same letter, and they sound nothing alike.  There's no excuse.

"Milk does not belong in the cupboard."
More than once I've woken up in the morning to find a nice, cold empty plate in the refrigerator exactly where the milk belongs, and room-temperature milk in the cupboard.

"Don't forget to set your alarm, stupid."
I have enough trouble remembering to do this when I'm not dead tired.

"Brushing your teeth with shaving cream won't get them very clean."
Speaking of which . . . 

"Don't shave while you're half asleep."
Gentleman, do you enjoy intact skin on your face? I apparently don't, because I still try to do this.  Speaking of which . . .

"You really want to shave now?  Fine.  Wondering why your razor isn't working, dummy?  Maybe you should stop shaving with the back side of the razor."
Doing this is surprisingly ineffective, as I've learned the hard way.  Multiple times.

"Hey, you forgot your belt."
No this isn't a huge deal, unless I'm wearing that one pair of pants I own that are just slightly too big.  Speaking of which . . .

"Hey, you forgot your pants.  Again."
Yes . . . again.  Seriously.

"Eat something."
I can also hear my mother (MomBastard) telling me that I'm wasting away, I'm only skin and bones, I need to eat something, what do I have in the refrigerator.  But sometimes I get so tired I either forget to eat or am just too damned tired to make myself chew.  It's a very effective diet plan, but not one that I would recommend to anyone.

"Put the seat back down."
Fine, I will admit I sometimes forget to do this even when I'm not tired. 

"Get some sleep.  Because you have to do this all over again tomorrow."
No matter how much I get done, there's always more to do, and some things get put off until the next day.  Fortunately Mrs. Bastard has a way of getting me to pack it in for the night and go to sleep.

Monday, 13 April 2015

10 Commandments of Trauma

Being a trauma surgeon is hard.  I am constantly dealing with idiots who have usually done something very stupid that put them in my trauma bay.  But I also multitask, performing life-saving surgery, talking to families and telling them their loved one has died, and babysitting drunk idiots, all while trying to keep Mrs. Bastard happy and trying to find time to see my little Mini Bastards (not their real names©) before they're fully grown.  Mrs. Bastard may argue with me that her life is even more difficult, since she also works full time and is the one mainly responsible for trying to tame my little monsters, and to be honest, she has a fair point.  

Before you think I'm just boo-hooing and being all melodramatic about the difficult life that I chose for myself, no this isn't a "Feel Sorry For Doc and Mrs. Bastard" post, so don't even think about dumping any unwarranted and unwanted pity on us.  Besides, this post isn't really about me (or her) anyway. 

After giving it much thought, though being a trauma surgeon and a trauma surgeon's wife may both be difficult, I've decided that being a trauma patient is the hardest job of all.

I understand that my trauma patients have it rough.  They are whisked from their car or home or McDonald's (yes, really) in an ambulance at breakneck speed, sirens blaring, weaving through traffic, often with no recollection of what has transpired.  They may regain consciousness en route without any clue how they got there.  One minute they're enjoying a Big Mac and Coke (mmmm . . . Big Mac and Coke . . .), the next moment they wake up with a hard collar around their necks and a haematoma on their forehead, strapped to a hard backboard which prevents them from moving, and they're screaming down the road towards the hospital.  Then once they get to me, all their clothes are cut off as they are stripped completely naked, IV's are shoved unceremoniously into their arms, and strangers start asking them questions while poking and prodding every square inch of their bodies.

Holy.  Shit.  This is what many people consider to be their ultimate nightmare, and rightfully so.

Yet, despite how difficult a time I know these people are having, I still expect a certain level of consideration and tact from my patients.  However, many (ok, most) of my patients fail to live up to even these admittedly low standards.

So with that in mind, I'd like to propose a list, a 10 Commandments of Trauma if you will, of how you should (and shouldn't) act with your trauma surgeon. 

Thou shalt not lie       
This goes without saying.  Or at least it should.  Don't tell me you weren't driving when you were.  Don't tell me you didn't smoke marijuana when I smell it on you.  Just tell me the damned truth.  I am not the police, I'm just trying to take care of you, so lying to me will avail you nothing.

Thou shalt not omit
If I ask you what medical problems you have, don't leave anything out.  Do you have diabetes?  Tell me.  Are you on blood thinners?  Tell me.  Do you have untreated HIV or hepatitis C?  Then FUCKING TELL ME before I am exposed to your infectious blood. 

Thou shalt admit to alcohol consumption
This ties in to commandment #1, but somehow everyone who is wheeled in smelling like The Pub at 2AM claims to have only had two beers.  I'm going to check your blood alcohol level anyway, so you may as well be honest.

Thou shalt not curse at me
I don't care how drunk you are, you will not swear like a sailor in my trauma bay.  My nurses and assistants and I will speak to you respectfully, but we damn well demand that you do the same, asshole.  I mean sir.

Thou shalt not argue with me about seatbelts and helmets
No, you are not safer by not wearing your seatbelt.  This is a ridiculous argument with absolutely no veracity whatsoever, and the fact that anyone actually believes this horseshit boggles the mind.  And helmets save lives and brains (just in case anyone making this argument actually has one), though if you actually are thinking about arguing this with me, then obviously the very existence of your brain is up for debate.  Not wearing a helmet or seatbelt is stupid and indefensible.  Full fucking stop. 

Thou shalt not say 'no'
Don't misunderstand me - I'm not saying that you should blindly follow anything your trauma surgeons says.  HOWEVER, if you find yourself in the care of a trauma surgeon and he (or she) tells you that you need immediate surgery, there is a very high likelihood that you will be dead soon.  Listen carefully, then say 'yes'.

Thou shalt not say 'I don't know'
What medicines do you take?  What do you mean 'I don't know'?  What's that scar on your abdomen? Oh, it's from the last time you got shot'?  Great, what did they do when they were in there?  What do you mean 'I don't know'?  It's your body - fucking KNOW IT.  If you don't care, don't expect anyone else to.

Thou shalt not whine about needles
Unless you actually are a child, don't act like one.  Yes, you're getting an IV.  Yes, it will hurt for 2.13 seconds.  Yes, I will give you morphine through that IV if you need it.  No, I will not put you to sleep to suture that tiny laceration on your arm.  And if you are covered with tattoos and tell me you're scared of needles, I will fucking slap you.  Not really, but in my head I will fucking slap you.

Thou shalt learn something
Ok, you made a mistake and did something stupid.  Fine, you're human just like the rest of us.  But if this is the third time your horse has kicked you, maybe you need to learn more about horses (or get a new horse that isn't an asshole).  And if this is your fifth time crashing your motorcycle, maybe you shouldn't be riding. 

Thou shalt be appreciative
We work long hours and spend the night in the hospital in a tiny call room away from our spouses and children just so we can be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year (366 next year) to save you and your drunk ass.  Fucking say 'Thank you', at least once.

***
I plan on printing these out in a very large font and posting them on the door of my trauma bay, though I don't expect them to last long.  I have a feeling the administration wouldn't approve.   To hell with it, I'm going to do it anyway.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Bad drivers

I'm a good driver.  I don't drive too fast, I signal before I change lanes, I follow at a safe distance, and I don't distract myself by fiddling with my phone.  That said, I think I'm the only person in my entire area (other than Mrs. Bastard) who follows these very simple rules.  It seems that no one else within a 100km radius of me can drive for shit.  Some drivers are so bad or so reckless that there are two things I wish I had: 1) the power to revoke a driving licence on site, and 2) a giant roof-mounted laser to blast the most egregious offenders into oblivion.  Mostly I would probably end up using these on BMW drivers.  Assholes.

Under normal circumstances everyone around me can't seem to drive safely, but some of these idiots actually do various things to erode their already piss-poor driving skills even further.  A few ordinary idiots drink and drive.  Some slightly more creative idiots text and drive.  Every now and then some really special idiots do their makeup and read the newspaper while driving.

And then you have the rare mind-numbing, slap-yourself-in-the-face, what-the-fuck-are-you-thinking idiots like Nina (not her real name©).

Nina was brought to me one fine morning after she ran her car into a ditch.  As she was wheeled in, she was screaming, "OH MY FOOT!  OH MY GOD, MY FOOT!  OOOOOH MY FOOT MY FOOT MY FOOT!!"

Hm, it seemed her foot was hurting.  Ok, so she has a broken foot, I suppose.  Simple, I have an orthopaedic surgeon on call who can fix that.

We transferred her from the gurney to our stretcher, and the first thing I noticed was the surgical shoe she was wearing on her left foot.

Hm.  That was unexpected.

I asked her which foot hurt.  "THE LEFT!"

Well that solves that mystery.  But she wasn't done.

"I JUST HAD SURGERY ON IT 3 DAYS AGO!  OW OW OW OW OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH OH OOOOOOOOOOH!"

Well that explains that.  The next question was perhaps the most obvious - was it hurting more compared to before the accident.

"NO!" she screamed.  "IT'S THE SAME AS BEFORE!  THAT'S WHY I WAS IN THE CAR!"

If that doesn't make much sense to you, you're not alone.  It didn't make sense to me or anyone else in the room at the time either.  While shaking my head, I completed my workup which revealed no other injuries.  X-rays of her foot were entirely negative, of course.

Several minutes (and several nurses encouraging her to breathe) later, she calmed down enough to explain what the hell was going on, since none of us had been able to figure it out.  You see, she had run out of her prescription pain medicine after her surgery, and she was on her way back to the pharmacy to get more.

Ooh, that makes sen. . . wait . . .

But, I thought, it's only been 3 days since the surgery.  So how had she run out of her pills so soon?  Had she misplaced them?  Had her surgeon just not given her enough of them?  Did her dog flush them down the toilet?

Hahahahaha no, how embarrassingly nve of me to even consider a normal explanation.  No, apparently it was because she had been taking 2-3 times the normal dose, including SIX of them that morning just before getting in the car and driving.

And just when I thought the stupidity had ended, she had one more surprise in store for me in her urine tox screen: she was also high on PCP.

Maybe she thought the PCP would let her fly to the pharmacy instead of having to walk on her recently-operated-on foot. Who knows.  I didn't ask her before I perfunctorily discharged her.

If you're wondering, no I did not give her a new prescription for pain medicine.  I only give those to people who A) need them, and B) I am reasonably convinced will not abuse the shit out of them.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Administration

Stupid doctors.  Stupid lawyers.  Stupid patients.  Stupid paramedics.  Stupid nurses.  Stupid me.  There aren't many people I haven't appropriately abused here, but unfortunately there is one group that has been badly overlooked.  That, however, is about to change.

I'm referring to stupid hospital administrators.

If you think doctors and nurses run hospitals, you'd be sadly mistaken; we have almost no input into the day-to-day workings of the hospital.  Those details are left up to businessmen and businesswomen who supposedly know how these massive undertakings are supposed to work so that the people who actually treat patients can do their jobs.  That said, having been in this business for several decades, I've seen exactly ZERO hospitals that I could say are well-run.  Well, I could say it, but I would be lying my ass off.

Why, you ask?  Well sit back and let me tell you a tale of woe.

Other than my family, one of my few pleasures in life is sitting down and enjoying an ice-cold Coca Cola.  Although I know there are better options (YES I FUCKING KNOW COKE IS BAD FOR ME), every now and then I still treat myself.  There's nothing quite so satisfying as the sharp, cold bubbles tickling my tongue as the phosphoric acid erodes my tooth enamel and guarantees me a retirement of dentures.  Yes, I've tried the lite/diet options, to no avail.  Sure there's less sugar, but the artificial sweeteners leave a noxious (almost metallic) aftertaste in my mouth that completely defeats the purpose.

As an aside, I can't stand purposeful misspellings like "lite".  And if "lite" isn't bad enough, "Xtreme" and "kwik" make me irritated enough to want to kick a hole in the wall.  I find these intentional misspellings as disagreeable as the aspartame aftertaste and almost as awful as Iggy Azalea's "music".

As I was saying, fortunately both of my hospitals have Coke in their respective doctors' lounges.  Every so often I will indulge, though somehow drinking an artificially-coloured carbonated drink makes me feel guilty, like I'm breaking the law.

Now I don't know exactly what's going on in my two hospital, but though they are miles/kilometers apart and share no hospital administrators in common, they seem to be engaged in a vast anti-soda (and thus an anti-Doc) conspiracy.

As I was enjoying a rare Coke between treating idiots trauma patients several months ago, one of my colleagues approached me and laughed, "You better enjoy that while you can, Doc (not your real name©)."

"Why?  Are they getting rid of it?" I asked jokingly.

"Oh, didn't you hear?", he replied.  "They are doing away with the sugary drinks and replacing them with flavoured water."

Wh . . . wh . . . wh . . . what?  Can they even do that?

I checked into it, and indeed, apparently in an effort to make the staff healthier, the hospital administrators thought it would be a wonderful idea to get rid of all the regular soda.  For all intents and purposes they are telling us doctors, who are all grown adults last I checked, what we can (and more to the point can't) drink.  And somehow they feel that flavoured water (with various artificial sweeteners like sucralose) would be a better option for us. 

I sat there silently fuming and mourning at the same time while finishing what likely would be one of my last Cokes ever at that hospital.  Then I realised I was acting like a spoiled brat, so I put on my big boy underpants and made my way to my other hospital to make rounds.  Still fuming.

Oh, and before anyone mentions it, yes I realise this falls directly under the category of "First World Problems", but I think working 100 hours a week entitles me to a free soda every now and then.  So shut it.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh right, on my way to Hospital #2.  When I got there, I decided to spite the first hospital's administrators by having a second soda.  Ha!  Two in one day!  Take that, assholes!

I went directly to the doctor's lounge and walked straight to the refrigerator, seeking my spoils.  And what greeted me was . . . this:

Wha . . . wha . . . 

It was a tiny can of Coke.  A tiny can!  What the fucking fuck?  And as small as it actually was (about 2/3 the size of a normal can), what my mind saw was this:



I didn't even know this crap existed!  It's just like Coke, only . . . less!  Who the hell buys this?  And why?  Who wants less of something?

My ire arose once again, but this time I didn't let it get the better of me.  I fumed again for a brief moment as I considered my worsening First World Problem, and then I came up with a perfect solution.

I drank two of them.

Fuck you, administrators.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Angelina Jolie

I must admit I've never really been a huge fan of Mrs. Jolie.  Sure she's attractive (anyone with functioning eyes can see that), but I've never thought she was the most beautiful woman in Hollywood (that would be Scarlett Johansson).  And I was never a huge fan of her movies.

After she published her op-ed piece in the New York Times a few days ago, however, I'm a fan now.  A big one.

You can read more about her heroism (in my most humblest of opinions, of course) in The Daily Beast by clicking here.


Incidentally, my story was on their front page today (lower right corner of the picture).  I'm not sure if that means something significant or that I'm simply using my imagination and reading too much into it.

Monday, 23 March 2015

What your doctor won't tell you about surgery

So a few interesting things have happened since this was published in the Daily Beast this past Saturday.  In case you missed it:



I didn't get called an idiot (or anything else equally disparaging) in the comments this time, though I admit I didn't read the comments to my last two TDB articles, so who knows what insults were flung my way.  I thought I was making some real progress with this piece.

And then today one of my twitter followers hit me with this:
Ha ha . . . nah, I thought.  And then . . .

Hm, that does sound like what I wrote.  But still, nah.  Couldn't be.  AND THEN:

Ok, I freely confess that at that point I was sort of freaking out a bit.  And by "sort of freaking out" I mean I nearly drooled on myself.  Then a few minutes later I got an email from a reader who confirmed that Shepard Smith and  Kennedy had recapped my article on Fox News.

I'm pretty sure I stopped breathing temporarily.  I decided to tweet to Kennedy and let her know (jokingly) that I had been available for an interview:


Yes indeed.  It just kept getting weirder and weirder.

But it wasn't over yet.

As I was reading that tweet, a new email popped up.  It was a request to do a phone interview for a radio station in San Francisco.

Seriously.

I had to politely decline the offer (and concurrently split an infinitive), of course.  I don't think I can fake an accent long enough to get through an entire interview, though I suppose they could have run my voice through a voice changer.  But who the hell wants to listen to a faked computerised voice on the radio.  I know I wouldn't.  And as I was writing the email response, this popped up on Twitter:

Yeah.  Now if I could only figure out a way to change my voice and face . . .

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Honour among thieves

A plague upon it when thieves cannot be true to one another. - Shakespeare, Henry IV

Some of my most painful moments in my illustrious academic career (ha) were trudging endlessly through some of William Shakespeare's most famous works.  I'm sure this blog's readers include more than its fair share of Shakespeare fans, but I found Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Othello, and others to be nothing more than literary torture.  I was just never able to decipher his ridiculously flowery garrulousness, I never found his comedies funny, and the tragedies were merely meh.  Ok, I'll grudgingly admit the plot of Romeo and Juliet may have been original in 1594, but his "star-crossed lovers" routine hath since been rather flung out liketh a dead horse o'er the ensuing 400 years.  

I think I need to rinse my mouth out after writing that.  Blech.

Anyway, despite the fact that ol' Willy wrote the quote at the top of the page (which of course translates to "There's no honour among thieves" in modern non-stupidly-flamboyant English), I confess that I like it and find it to be true.  It's commonly demonstrated on TV and in movies when bad guys stab each other in the back (literally and/or figuratively), but I've never really witnessed it in real life.

And then Henry and Richard (not their real names©) came along and gave me a Shakespearian lesson I shall ne'er soon forget.

Henry and Richard were old buddies, but Henry moved away from their home town some years back.  After many years apart, Henry drove back home to catch up with his friend over a long weekend, and the two of them decided that the best way to reminisce was to revisit their old haunts and re-enact the prior activities of their youth.

In other words, they decided to go to a pub and get blind drunk.

Unfortunately in Henry's and Richard's alcohol-saturated brains, designated drivers and taxis are what other people use to get home.  Speed limits?  Psh, that's for other people, not them.  Seat belts?  Ha!  They never wore them before, so why start now.  And trees?  They're perfect for running into and getting ejected from the car.

Oops.

Richard was brought to me first, so drunk he could hardly keep his eyes open.  The medics reported that he was the passenger in the car, and they had found him outside the vehicle in the rain leaning against a concrete roadside barrier.  He managed to dribble out that his shoulder hurt, and he had lacerated one of his toes (apparently shoes were also optional during their little reunion soirée).  He also had scrapes and bruises everywhere but no other obvious life-threatening injuries.  I needed more information.

"Were you driving the car, Richard?"

"Noisrajg," he replied, which I believe is Drunkenese for "No, sir."  The medics shook their heads.

Seeing that Richard would be no useful fount of information and finding no major injuries, I went to examine Henry, who had arrived just a few minutes later in a separate ambulance.  Like his friend, he also smelled as if he had been freshly dipped in a vat of old liquor, stale beer, and cigarette butts.  "He was the passenger in a motor vehicle crash versus a tree, Doc," the medics reported.  "He was ejected out of the vehicle."

At this point you are probably thinking the same thing I was at the time - Wait wait wait, how could they both be passengers?  Were there more people in the car?  My Spidey Sense was tingling.

"Who was in the car with you, Henry?" I asked him.  Fortunately Henry was just slightly less drunk and slightly more coherent than Richard.  Slightly.

"Just me and my gooooooooooooood buddy Richard.  RICHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARD!!!  I'm just *burp* visiting from out of town and we went out to have some *urgh* fun."

Right.  Running your car into a tree and getting thrown from the vehicle sounds like a total blast.  Fucking whee.

"Were you driving the car, Henry?" I asked him.  He vehemently shook his head no and then vomited on the floor.

"Ok, so Richard was driving?" I pressed.

Pause.

I waited.

As I stood there watching his face, I could almost see the hamster running in the wheel in his head, turning the gears in Henry's brain.  

After several seconds his glassy eyes lit up as he obviously thought he had come up with a brilliant, infallible response.  My anticipation was at its peak.  Henry opened his mouth:

"Uh, no comment."

I had to control myself, realising that he had really thought that would clear up everything.  I took a deep breath and tried again, this time a bit more slowly.  

"Was Richard driving, Henry?"

He audibly sighed, realising that his unassailable ruse had been assailed.  

"Uh . . . well, yeah.  I just don't want him to get into trouble.  But yeah.  Yeah he was."

It was clearly my robust interrogation technique which had broken him, and I was instantly glad I had watched all those James Bond movies.  I was, however, surprised he had thrown his buddy (his supposedly gooooooooooood buddy) under the proverbial bus so easily.  

The police had some choice words and a veritable stack of citations for Richard (once he sobered up a bit), who seemed none too pleased, though obviously astounded, that his stupendous trickery had failed.

Fortunately between the two of them, all they suffered was a fractured scapula, various bumps, bruises, abrasions, and lacerations, a totaled car, and a ruined reunion weekend.

I guess Henry never read All's Well That Ends Well:

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

And now I need to rinse my mouth out twice.