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.