Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Fairview’

Who Would Write Your Obituary? What Would it Say Today?

On Twitter a rather erudite retired surgeon posted the obituary of a 72 yo physician who died from cancer. She’d been sick and dying, knowing that she would die from her cancer, for some 2 years. Her obituary, obviously written herself, was funny and self-deprecating, an obvious attempt to soothe the sorrow of those she left behind. A women’s basketball player from Northwestern was killed by suicide last week. Who will write her obituary, and what will it say? One of my local colleagues died very suddenly and unexpectedly on Friday at the age of 50, roughly 24 hours after being diagnosed with cancer. Who will write his obituary, and what will it say?

2016 was notable for the number of rather famous people who died. This particular sector of humanity is famous enough that many media outlets pre-prepare obituaries so that they will have material ready to publish shortly after there announcement that the famous individual is deceased. It is unusual that someone not so famous, even someone of a degree of local fame, should have an obituary ready to go. More unusual, to be sure, for that obituary to be as light-hearted a read as that Minnesota MD. No, for the majority of humanity, at least here in the U.S., an obituary is a rather slap dash on-the-fly “just the facts, M’am” effort by whoever is at the desk at the local funeral home.

I know this, of course, because my Mom sent us the draft of my Dad’s obituary before she gave the OK to publish. Now, my Dad was a very good man, hardly great in the sense of, say, FDR or Red Auerbach, but he certainly deserved more than a rote regurgitation of his stats written in 6th grade English. Since I spend more time exercising my writing muscles than my siblings, or maybe just because I can type faster, the job fell to me to capsulize a man who was larger than life to his family, just like I’m sure is the case with my just deceased colleague and that Northwestern basketball player.

The grains of sand that pass through the funnel of life’s hourglass are only dry if observed from afar; up close each one is as colorful as any rainbow, as full of energy as any thunder storm. Poetry is there for the asking.

For most of us there is still a long journey ahead. The bulb atop our hourglass still holds innumerable grains of sand, a countless number of memories yet to create. We have years, nay decades of love yet to give and receive. Life is actually quite long for all but the unfortunate, unlucky few. Their lesson for us is simple, I think: Who will write your obituary? What will it say if it needed writing today?

Tales from Bellevue Hospital: On Call 4th of July

I am on call this month for the largest community hospital on the West Side of Cleveland. Covering a semi-suburban ER is quite different from covering a true big city ER, especially when the semi-suburban hospital has gutted both its trauma and eye services. My on-call role now is little more than that of foot servant, covering the loose ends of other people’s arses in the pursuit of a perfect chart. Bellevue, at least the Bellevue I knew in the 80′s, was quite a different story. Although it was July it was July in New York, pre-Guliani New York, and it was Bellevue Hospital.

There are only two kinds of people in New York City: Targets, and people who hit Targets. At Bellevue we took care of the Targets.

It’s the first weekend in July. For most people in America that means the 4th of July and everything that goes along with that. Barbecues. Fireworks. Festivals and ballgames of all sorts. And beer. Lots and lots of beer. But in that curious sub-culture of medical education the first weekend in July means the first time on call for newly minted interns, newly promoted residents and fellows of all sorts. Everyone and everything is new, just in time for July 4th and its aftermath.

Funny, but I ended up on call for every 4th of July in my four years of post-med school training. I’m not sure which, or how many, of the residency gods I offended, but whatever I did I apparently did in spades ’cause I hit the first weekend jackpot every year. I have no memory of my first on call as an intern, but the “Target Range” was open for business those first couple of years at Bellevue, for sure! In fact, if memory serves, the phrase “Target” was coined by yours truly that very first weekend of that very first year as an ophthalmology resident.

“Hey Eye Guy! We got a John Q. Nobody who got shot in the temple just standing on the subway platform. Says he can’t see. Whaddaya want us to do with him? By the way…welcome to Bellevue.”

Crowds and beer and heat and stuff that explodes. Welcome to Bellevue, indeed. Some poor schlub survives the bar scene after the parade, makes it through pickpocket alley intact, gingerly stepping over detritus living and otherwise, only to get shot in the head as the A Train approached the station in a random act of anonymous violence. The bullet entered through the right temple, destroyed the right eye, and wreaked havoc in the left eye socket before coming to rest against the left temple. Right eye gone and malignant glaucoma in the only remaining left eye. And there I was, all of 3 days into my opthalmology residency, backed up by a chief resident of similar vintage. Whoa…

There’s no way to avoid it. After all, med students have to graduate and residencies have to start some time. There’s just this unholy confluence of weak links in the system all coming together in time for the second (after New Year’s Eve) most difficult ER day in our big, academic hospitals. Get sick or injured on June 4th? Everyone’s on top of their game and everyone’s in town. July 4th? The fix is in, and the game is as rigged against you as any carnival game attended by a dentally challenged carnie.

As I sit here, an Attending on call for yet another 4th of July weekend, covering the ER and cowering each time the phone rings, the Tweets and Facebook posts heralding the arrival of a new crop of interns and residents send me back to Bellevue. Year 2, cursed again, covering the spanking new 1st year ophthalmology resident (was it Dave?) as he got his welcome “gift” from the ER. “Hey Eye Guy. We got a Target down here for ya. 10 year old girl. Some dumbass tossed a lit M80 to her and she caught it. Went off before she could get rid of it;  blew off her right hand and looks like her right eye is gone. You from NY? No? Welcome to Bellevue, pal.” Yup…there’s something about the 4th of July in every teaching hospital in the U.S., and just like everything else, whatever it is, there was more of it at Bellevue.

Only two kinds of people in New York, Targets and people who hit Targets. At Bellevue we took care of the Targets.