Monday 12 August 2013


Let me start this post by saying that I get compensated very well for the work that I do.  I don't want anyone to get the false impression that I believe I'm underpaid.  I like to think that I deserve such compensation, however, because what I do is important.  Not to sound too self-congratulatory, but medicine is a pretty valuable profession.  But an email from reader Tom (not his real name) got me thinking: how does my salary compare to some other highly-paid people?

Robert Downey, Jr. (actor): $75,000,000
Tiger Woods (professional golfer): $80,100,000
Larry Ellison (CEO, Oracle Corp): $96,000,000
Michael Bay (movie producer/director): $160,000,000
Oprah Winfrey (you know): $165,000,000
Tim Cook (CEO, Apple Inc): $378,000,000
Me: Less than all the above.  Much less.  Much much MUCH less.  By a lot.

These make more while sitting on the toilet than I make in a week.  But as I told another reader who emailed me a few days ago, I am not in medicine to make money, and anyone who is needs to seriously examine his priorities.  

But regardless of the money, for all my long hours, for all the hours spent away from my family, hearing a patient say "Thank you" is worth more than gold.

With that in mind, if you've ever held a door for a complete stranger who simply walked through without even acknowledging your existence, then you too understand the value of "Thank you", and you also understand how NOT hearing it makes you feel worthless, like what you did wasn't worth your time.  Now imagine you've saved that person's life, and he simply walks out without a word. 

As I mentioned above, Tom emailed me with this story:
Doc, I have been reading your blog for about a 6 months now and you are the type of practitioner that I attempt to emulate as a medic.  During my last call we got called for a possible allergic reaction.  When we arrived the man in his late 20's was having one word dyspnea {he could only speak one word at a time in the midst of his gasping for breath} with all the other signs of an anaphylactic reaction.  He was close to needing to be intubated.  I got epinephrine on board then attempt to get an IV in his arm, but he was too obese, so I had to settle for a tiny IV in his finger.  Within 5 minutes he had returned to normal.  But did I get a thank you?  No!  After doing emergency services for this long I don't expect one, so the few times it does happen are special.  He decided to take it the other way and started moaning about how bad his finger hurt.  All the way to the hospital I can't get a word in edgewise because his damned finger was hurting.  Did he have any idea how close he was to dying?  I just wanted to hear one of your stories where you encountered something like this.  I know it happens to us all and I just wanted to hear your spin on it.  Thank you again for your great blog.

Unfortunately it happens to me all the time.  There was one particular fine young gentleman who had gotten shot in the abdomen.  After repairing multiple holes in multiple organs, I went to see him the following day.  "How are you feeling this morning?  Sore?" I asked him.


No "Good morning, doctor".  No "Thanks for saving my life, doctor".  His first inclination was to yell at me.  His second, third, and fourth inclinations were also to yell at me, because for the next several days, the only thing he ever said to me (aside from grunting "yeah" or "no") was "I want my pain medicine."  Even on the day I discharged him and was instructing him to follow up with me in a week, all he said was, "Where's my prescription for pain medicine?"  When he did come to see me a week later, he was dour, surly, and thoroughly obnoxious.  As I removed the staples from his incision, he kept acting like he was doing me a favour just by showing up for his appointment. 

Which brings us back to my list.  I figured that with the way he was acting, this guy must have been a spoilt rotten rich kid.  But after an exhaustive search, I couldn't find him on any list of the world's richest people.  So I had no choice but to conclude that he is just a loathsome twit with no appreciation for human life, most notably his own.


  1. Loving the blog! Found it through FML and it's nice to see healthcare professionals who actually care. I was a cna for about 6 years and recently left the field due to nurses who didn't care about anyone but themselves. It truly is nice to see that not only you care, but keep a sense of humor with it! Thanks :)

  2. My thought was that he had some addiction he to feed with painkillers.

  3. I'm sure you can judge these things better than most, doc' but if someone is actually in major pain then I can understand that social niceties might go out of the window. That said, this guy does just sound like an idiot with an over-developed sense of entitlement because you would think by the time you are ready for discharge the pain would not be overwhelming.

    Doctors are paid pretty well but that doesn't apply to all health-care professionals. This doesn't seem to occur to many patients, however. My mother went in for a hip replacement a couple of months ago and thought she would make a small donation to the ward Christmas/social fund as a thank-you to the care staff. It took them 3 days to work out how to do that because nobody had offered to do that in living memory! I thought that was pretty poor, especially since patients on that ward are cared for very well and receive a major joint-replacement operation at no cost to themselves.

    It's funny how people take education and healthcare so much for granted when it's free.

    1. Actually, I've been in that much pain, and that kind of behavior is still unwarranted. Besides, people are much more willing to do things for you if you are nice to them.

  4. You really sound like J.D. from Scrubs sometimes.

    Great post as usual :)

  5. I propose a tri-level douchebag test:1) idiot, 2) a$$hole, and 3) motherf'er (alternately just f'er). Painkiller addicts with no respect for life (or the doctors who save their lives) are somewhere between 3 and 4.

  6. This reminds me of a PM I got from a certain person on FML who likes animals more than people.
    She said, "Ironically I can't go into the animal business because I have allergies and asthma, and I'm sure it doesn't pay as well as my back up plan which is I suppose I will be stuck with humans. At least they'll make me money."
    I feel like this asinine comment deserves to be laughed at by the world. Go on, people. Laugh.

  7. I can't imagine not saying thank you. That's crazy. I'm an over thanker.

    Brought me a drink? Thank you. Held the door? Thank you. Told me that my zipper is down? Thank you.

    Thank YOU Doc, for not only the work you do but the stories that you provide. I'm sorry that people can't all be awesome like you.

  8. Doc, you have deserved this since your very first post: Thank-you! Thank-you for picking me up with your stories when I am down and pulling me back down when I begin to lose touch with what's truly important. It is a truly gifted healer indead who can positively impact the lives of those around him simply by existing and sharing the truths of that existence with others.
    P.s. this comment may seem to have come out of nowhere since I rarely comment, but trust me, I've been here following along in silent admiration for quite some time now; since the beginning of this blog and before that on FML, in fact.

  9. Well, thanks. For years now your stories have amused and contented me with nearly every post. To think a day of being slammed by you on FML would lead me to check you out and discover your blog -- the blog of a man who put me in my place. My respect and a thank you.


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