Monday, 5 May 2014

Family love

My mobile phone is important to me.  I don't carry a personal pager (Just as an aside, why do so many doctors still have these ancient artifacts?  It's 2014, people!  They are obsolete, so why does my hospital make me carry one for trauma call?), I don't have an answering service (see above), so anyone at the hospital can reach me 24 hours a day no matter where I am.  I take very good care of my phone because I need it (Flappy Bird), and though I can't really call it essential (Angry Birds), it damn near comes close (Twitter).  My car is also important to me.  It gets me where I need to go safely, reliably, and quickly.  I take very good care of it, because that's what I do to things that are important to me. 

But cars, mobile phones, and pagers are replaceable.  People . . . not so much.

So if I feel that strongly about replaceable things, imagine how I feel about something as irreplaceable as my family.  NOTHING is more important to me than my family, and I would go to the ends of the Earth for them to ensure their happiness, safety, and health.  If my daughter wants an ice cream, then goddammit I will find a farm, milk a cow, separate the cream, harvest some sugar cane . . . or perhaps just go the store and buy some damned ice cream.  Well, as long as she's eaten her dinner, asks me politely, and hasn't already gobbled a full carton of ice cream that day, which (knowing my daughter) she probably has.

Anyway, you get the point.  I love my family.  Unfortunately it often feels like I'm alone in that sentiment.

There is very little more frustrating than my trauma pager going off as I'm walking into the hospital (except perhaps the pager going off 10 minutes before my shift ends).  On this fateful day it literally went off as I was entering the building.

Ok, Call Gods.  It's going to be THAT kind of day, eh?  Fine, then bring it, you evil fucks.

My pager told me that it was a fall (which are usually not terribly exciting), so I moseyed my way up to the trauma bay.  A few minutes later Melvin (not his real name) rolled in, completely unconscious. 

"We think he's about 25, Doc," the medics started.  "No medical history.  His mom found him at the bottom of the stairs.  He hasn't moved at all since we found him."

Uh oh.  That's bad news for Melvin.

"Yeah, his mom said she heard him fall about midnight last night, but she didn't call anyone," the medic said with a chuckle.  He must have seen the blank look of confusion on my face, because he continued, "I guess she said she was sick of his shit, using PCP all the time, so she just left him there."

She left him on the floor all night?  Wha . . . What??  My blank look of confusion did not change at all.  The medic stared right back at me, so I realised that was the end of the story and the rest was up to me.

On examination, his heart was beating and he was breathing on his own, but those were the only signs that he was alive.  His limbs were flaccid and his eyes were closed, but when I opened them his pupils were different sizes, a sign known as anisocoria.  Uh oh.  There was a bit of swelling on his face, but other than that there was nary a mark to be found on him. 

"It's just the PCP, right Doc?" the medic laughed.  "Right?  Doc?"  His smile faded.

"No", I said without a hint of humour.  No, PCP doesn't put you in a coma like this.  A combination of a head injury and anisocoria told me that something very bad was going on in this young man's head, and whatever badness it was had been going on for over 8 hours.  A CT scan confirmed a huge 6cm epidural haematoma which had been compressing his brain all night, and which no one, not his family, not the medics, had taken seriously.  My neurosurgery colleague and I brought him immediately to the operating theatre to drain the blood clot and relieve the pressure, but the damage had already been done. 

After the surgery was over we went to speak to his grandparents (his mother didn't show up, presumably because she was still 'sick of his shit').  We told them the grim news, and they didn't look the least bit surprised, nor did they look worried.  "You know," his grandmother said, "the only reason we called the paramedics was to get him out of the way.  We just couldn't pick him up off the floor."

I was disgusted how this family treated Melvin.  Unless you're a murderer, a rapist, a child abuser, or a politician, no one deserves to be treated like a bag of garbage, left to rot on the floor.  This young man deserved a chance, despite his sordid past.  His family denied him that chance, and Melvin paid the ultimate price.

If you've managed to read this far, please find someone you love, give him a big hug, and tell him you love him more than anything.  Please.  I'm hugging both of my children right now.

21 comments:

  1. Wow. They didn't even care to learn that their grandson was dead. You seem to have cared about Melvin more than his own mother! Seriously, did they show any reaction, any remorse at having Melvin die when they could've prevented it?

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    1. I think he's not dead, he's just in a coma...? Not that that's that much better.

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    2. Doc said he paid "the ultimate price"

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    3. The fact that he was still breathing (itself a miracle) before he was in the Doc's capable hands makes me think he is still in that coma (assuming his family did not yet get sick of paying his medical bills). Chances are close to nil he is waking up I'm guessing. The world can be an incredibly cruel place.

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  2. That is terrible, I'm actually having trouble believing this post. There's gotta be SOME trace of guilt, remorse, sadness, love. There just HAS to be.

    ...Is there?

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  3. I think what's going on here is that the son they knew had been replaced with the druggie already. His death means little because he was effectively already dead.

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    1. Jesus, dude. Haven't you ever met someone with Alzheimer's? Drug abuse is at least in theory reversible, though the judgmental part of me has a feeling his family had something to do with it to begin with. His family at least should have gotten him into rehab, assuming they didn't try that at least once. This is besides the point though. You love the people you're closest to, regardless of reason or whether or not they regularly use PCP.

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    2. I understand what you are saying, Loren.
      I was required to see a shrink before my first back surgery, because of my family history of chemical abuse. I held nothing back.
      The doctor told me that my sister, who abused prescription narcotics and barbs, would be dead in 5 years. My brother, who did the same but add a little cocaine and meth into the picture, would be in prison within 10.
      He was correct about both. My sister lay dead in her house for 3 days, alone with cats, because we were used to her dropping off the face of the earth. When we'd check on her, we'd always find her gorked on the sofa.
      You cannot save those who do not want to be saved.

      Still... to walk over someone passed out for several hours? Yes, that's a big "wow."

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  4. Wow....I mean that in not a good way. RIP Melvin.

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  5. Oh my god, how can his mother not care about her own son/ Or his grandparents not care about their grandson? I hope these people realize that they are in some way responsible for his death, he in NO WAY deserved that treatment, especially from his own family, I hope they can't sleep at night. I honestly do

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  6. Hey Doc do you happen to know if the family could be charged for manslaughter or something along those lines.? Reading that made me sick to my stomach and I fell like that family should be held accountable for what they did... or didn't do I should say. I don't have any kids, and the closest thing neatr me is my cat so in giving her a big hug until I see my mother, who suffers from black outs, so I can give her a big hug.

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    1. Depending on what country this occurred in, I don't believe so. In the US only two states have "Good Samaritan" laws where a bystander is legally obligated to at least attempt to help a person in danger, if there is no risk of harm to the bystander.

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  7. (Completely unrelated to the story) What's the most fun you've ever had as a doctor, doc?

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    1. Going on vacation with Mrs. Bastard. :)

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    2. Oh come on, that's just avoiding the question!

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  8. Yeah, sounds pretty heartless by the family, but you know nothing about this guy, nor what he did to this family over how many years. You have no idea how many times he has passed out on the family. You have no idea how many messes this guy made and left the family to clean it up, nor how serious they may have been. You shouldn't be so quick to judge people you know nothing about.

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    1. Except for one minor detail - I met with the family several times and got to know more of the story. Without going into his personal details, I'll just say that he didn't deserve this.

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  9. If the situation is anything like my sister I kind of understand but I don't understand at the same time. My sister is heavily addicted to several illegal drugs and alcohol. I love my sister but there comes a point when you give up because you've tried everything and they don't want to fix themselves. If this had happened to my sister I would have called emergency services right away. But if she died anyways I wouldn't shed a single tear because to me she is already dead. This might sound heartless but sometimes I catch myself wishing she would overdose and learn her lesson or die because I'm so tired of all the heartache and watching her put my mom through hell.

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