Monday, 27 October 2014

Common sense

There are certain things in life that shouldn't need to be said, things that should be self-explanatory and only require common sense, things that most people with more than 17 neurons should be able to figure out on their own:
  • Don't touch a wall that says "Fresh Paint"
  • Don't touch an electric fence that says "WARNING: ELECTRIC FENCE"
  • Don't run with scissors
  • Don't throw knives at your brother
  • Don't drink and drive
I like to think that the term "common sense" was invented for a reason.  That reason, of course, is that common sense is common.  Or at least it should be.  It's a very simple concept, one that boils down to three simple words that my father (DadBastard) told me on my wedding day: DON'T BE STUPID.  Those three little words cover a lot of ground and will keep a lot of people out of a lot of trouble if they just bothered to remember them every now and then.

I think anyone who has lived on this planet for more than a decade can definitively tell you that common sense is in no way common.

Thom (not his real name ©), a healthy young man in his thirties (ie old enough to know better) stumbled out of a pub after drinking more than his fair share, wandered into the road, and was promptly struck by a car.  His head bounced off the windscreen, shattering it, and he was launched (purportedly) 10 meters through the air, landing in a crumpled, beer-soaked heap on the side of the roadway.  When the medics first got to him, he was completely unconscious, so he was brought to me as a level 1 (high level) trauma about 20 minutes later.  Because of his altered level of consciousness, it was unclear to the medics if he had a severe brain injury, but when he woke up and vomited about a liter of undigested ale (it may have been lager) on my shoes, the issue started to become clear.

On my initial head-to-toe assessment, it was difficult for me to get past Thom's head since there were at least 10 separate lacerations on his scalp, all of them bleeding to some degree.  I fashioned a makeshift turban to staunch the bleeding, and my survey continued southward.  He miraculously appeared to have no broken bones or other serious injures.  A CT scan ruled out any serious brain injury, but his labwork revealed the true nature of his problem: his blood alcohol level was about 6 times the legal limit.

I went through two stapling devices (which contain 25 staples each) to get all his scalp lacerations closed.  I then hydrated the hell out of him, let him sleep it off, and sent him home.

A week later Thom came back to see me to get the staples removed, and something seemed a bit off with him in the waiting room.  I watched him get up and walk into my examination room, and though it was rather subtle, he seemed to be off-balance slightly.  My first thought was that he actually had a serious brain injury that I had somehow missed.  Not two seconds later when he approached me, my worry was allayed and my ire started rising:

Thom had shown up to his follow-up appointment drunk.

He wasn't nearly as intoxicated as he had been when we first met and he was clearly trying to hide it as best he could, but the smell on his breath was unmistakable, as were his bloodshot eyes and his slurred speech.  And the bottle of whiskey in his jacket pocket.

I wish I could eliminate the term "common sense" from the lexicon since it is an obviously glaring misnomer.  Unfortunately "rare sense" and "unheard-of sense" just don't have the same ring to it.

26 comments:

  1. I have a feeling Thom might not just be your run-of-the-mill idiot, he's probably an alcoholic - meaning he has an addiction problem, not a common sense problem. That isn't going to change all of a sudden just because he walked into your clinic, doc.

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    1. That's a perfectly reasonable assumption, one that I made myself.

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  2. I must say, either your limit is lower than ours, or I must take my hat off to Thom for being a professional drunk. the best score I have seen has been just short of drunk X 4; and that was a "pour the patient onto the backboard and poke the call gods" crash.

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    1. addendum: I have to admit to a feeling of unprofessional glee that in that particular case, the drunk driver came out worse than his victims.

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    2. that I have little sympathy for drunk drivers? welcome to the dirty end of the stick. keep in mind that there are two demographics of victims of drunk drivers that Doc never sees, but I do. like the sheriff who had a guy - fresh out of prison for - you guessed it - drunk driving; get drunk, get behind the wheel, and turn directly into the front of his patrol car.
      Or like the guy who had a drunk driver plow into the nose of his minivan hard enough to drive the steering wheel back into his chest.

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    3. I'm not playing the "Who ever has the biggest wound is beyond reproach from making the most disgusting statement" game with you.

      Taking delight in another person being that badly injured - sober, drunk, or otherwise - is fucked up. End of.

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    4. Shark - Ken (and you can correct me if I'm wrong) is merely saying that he is pleased when the innocent victim of a drunk driving accident is less injured than the drunk driver, not that he is "taking delight" in anyone getting hurt.

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    5. I am saying that when a person feels it is okay to deliberately impair their cognitive abilities, and then gets behind the wheel and harms someone, I can't help feeling they get what they deserve if they get hurt.

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    6. Doc, you optimistic bastard. ;)

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    7. Shark - you watch your mouth. I will not tolerate such slurs here.

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    8. Yeah, Dr. Bastard has repeatedly stated that he has an overwhelming inner pessimist.

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  3. Common sense. So rare it's a damned super-power anymore.

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  4. I posit that "common sense" refers not to the rarity, but rather to who possesses it, the "common folk". And silly sods like Thom don't qualify as common folk. They've all but forfeited the right to the term "folk"

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  5. To be fair, I might want a drink after being hit by a car too.

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    1. Wow. I can maybe understand wanting a drink after a traumatic event to calm the nerves (even though I wouldn't do it), but showing up to the hospital drunk? A week later? Especially considering the reason he landed there in the first place directly involved drinking WAY too much alcohol? That's just stupid. No, this guy is likely an alcoholic and needs professional help.

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    2. You must be real fun at parties.

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  7. I hope he gets the help he so obviously needs. That's pretty hardcore to go through what he did and to turn around and get drunk again. Before going to the doctor. Very sad.

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  8. I am curious doc, why thom and not tom?

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    1. some people prefer that spelling - I know a couple of Thoms.

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    2. Anon - Because I was having trouble thinking up a Not His Real Name© name, and that's the first one that came to mind. No specific reason at all.

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  9. My son is a Thomy ( Thom and Thomas) I could never understand where 'Tom' came from. If you look at 'Thomas' where is 'Tom'?
    As for the Thom in the story- maybe he was oddly lucky he was so intoxicated at time of said accident. He did naturally tense up and possibly have more injury. Yes, likely he is an addict. Has to come to that himself and hit rock bottom. Addiction is a very unpleasant disease.

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    1. leaving the "h" out simply makes the diminutive shorter to write.

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  10. I've always wondered why it was called "common sense" when it isn't all that common.

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