Are you sitting down? I hope so, because this post might surprise you.
I made a mistake.
Yeah, yeah I know, it happens. Just breathe. Deep, cleansing breaths. Are you breathing now? Good. No, this is not the first
mistake I've ever made (just ask my wife). Now I don't usually like being wrong, because being wrong usually makes me look bad, and I don't like looking bad. But sometimes things just work out so that even though I'm wrong, the guy who is right looks bad. I guess that doesn't make much sense, but I
guarantee you it will by the end of this.
A fine gentleman was
brought to my trauma bay having been involved in a rollover motor
vehicle accident. And by "fine gentlemen" I mean he was shabbily-dressed, cursing like a sailor, and reeking of alcohol. The medic informed me that the guy had admitted to drinking, and this set the patient off on a frenzy.
"I never said that!
That guy's a fucking liar! Where are you, you fucking liar! Get over here! FUCKING LIAR!"
I almost had to restrain him from jumping off
the gurney and attacking the medic, who understandably left in a hurry. On my initial assessment, he
definitely smelled strongly of alcohol, and he was certainly acting like just another drunk driver. He
continued acting belligerent and obnoxious, so I tried calming him by talking to
him the way I talk to my children - soft tones and a calm voice. I very calmly and politely informed him that we could
do this the easy way or the hard way - the easy way was for him to act
like a nice boy and cooperate. The hard way what for me to chemically sedate him and do my workup without him interfering.
"JUST YOU FUCKING TRY IT!"
Really? This is his response to politeness and good manners? After a few more calming words, he finally
relented and started acting almost like a human being, though he continued to threaten the medic who was long gone. Still, despite how he was acting (and how he smelled), throughout his workup he vehemently insisted he was not drunk. He had a small laceration on his head and a concussion, so I got a CT scan of his brain. Fortunately he was ok and it was negative. But that wasn't the only thing that was negative -
His blood alcohol level was 0.
Astounded, I made sure the lab hadn't mixed up his sample. Nope...it was 0. I closed his laceration with a few sutures and sent
him on his merry way. Even though I had been nothing but polite to him, he continued cursing at me and my staff until he was out the door.
After he left, I sat and wondered why he smelled of alcohol. Maybe someone spilled a drink on him? Maybe he uses bourbon as aftershave? Regardless, I couldn't believe he had actually been telling the truth. Yes, he was right and I was wrong. But that could mean only one thing - the reason he was acting like an asshole isn't because he was drunk...it was simply because he's an asshole.