Saturday 14 December 2013


Excuses are like Twilight movies - there are bad ones, and there are really bad ones, but there are just no good ones.  You may think one might be ok because it doesn't look so bad at first glance; in fact it may even seem like a good idea at the time.  But then you start it and you realise just how god awful it actually is and what a mistake it was to even think about it, and you know you should stop, but you just don't.  And the further you go, the deeper you go with it, the more you realise that this is the worst shit ever and I can't believe I did that to myself.  Some of the worst excuses that you may have heard include:
  • My dog ate my homework
  • I forgot
  • This isn't what it looks like
  • I thought you were coming home tomorrow!
  • I didn't know
As bad as making excuses may be, sometimes a situation is just so bad that not even the best excuse will get you out, and you come out looking worse than the mayor of the largest city in his country who admits to smoking crack cocaine, but only because he was really really drunk.

I was called recently by the intensive care unit about a very unfortunate 51-year old woman who was critically sick and actively dying.  She had bounced from hospital to hospital for the past year without a diagnosis for her various vague complaints, finally landing at our hospital two weeks ago and being diagnosed with metastatic small-cell lung cancer.  If that sounds bad, it should.  Because it's bad.  Very VERY bad, as in less than 5% of people who have it are still alive five years after they are diagnosed, and median survival is only 2-4 months.  Nearly everyone who gets it is a smoker, just like this patient.  As the intensive care doctor was describing her 2-week hospital course, I looked through her bloodwork on the computer, and nearly every number I saw - electolytes, kidney function, liver function, heart function, lung function - was grossly abnormal.  Every organ system was shutting down, and her blood chemistry was more out of whack than seeing Bill Nye the Science Guy on Dancing With The Stars.  Obviously something was drastically wrong, and they wanted my help fixing it.

I did a complete (though rapid) assessment (since she was dying in front of my eyes), and it looked like her entire small intestine had lost its blood supply and died.  I told the intensivist that there was bad news and worse news.  The bad news: if I didn't operate on her that very minute, she would surely die that night, probably within a few hours.  The worse news - if I somehow managed to get her to the operating theatre, she would die even quicker, likely on the operating table.  She was too sick to bring back, and there was nothing I could do.

Her entire family gathered in the worst room in the hospital - the ICU family conference room (aka The "Your Family Member Is Dying" Room), and I broke the bad news as gently as I could.  Considering they had spent nearly a year searching for a diagnosis and had just started chemotherapy two days prior, they took it as well as I could have expected.

But that was where it went from sad to "I want to choke the shit out of you" frustrating.

Her husband asked, "Well should my children get checked for lung cancer?"

I didn't immediately understand his question, so I asked, "Why do you ask?" though as I was saying it I figured he thought lung cancer was hereditary like breast or colon cancer, and he wanted to make sure his children weren't at risk.  As I was about to address that, he hit me with this shocker:

"Because they both smoke."

Dead silence.


Fortunately those were not the words that came out of my mouth.  "No," I said as calmly as I could, trying my hardest to resist the temptation to grab the two kids by the ears and ask what the ACTUAL FUCK they were thinking.  I looked them both right in the eye and said, "But you both need to QUIT.  RIGHT.  NOW.  You have no excuse any more to put even one more cigarette in your mouth.  None."

Her son started to protest, but I very firmly and finitely said, "NONE."  He stopped dead in his tracks.

Did he listen to me and quit smoking?  I don't know.  But what I do know is that he has no excuse to continue.


  1. Well, if I could ask you... Did you actually operate her?

    1. No I didn't, and she died a few hours later.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. I have said before that any comments regarding speculation on where I live will immediately be deleted. Don't read too much into the Rob Ford thing. It's just an example, and I could have used any corrupt politician from any country. He just happens to be the funniest at the moment.

  3. As someone who watched their mother slowly die from lung cancer over the course of 3 months, I've never considered smoking. In fact, I think anyone who smokes is an idiot. Seeing your mother fade away when you're 6 years old, it does something to you.


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