- Boisterously proclaim your hatred of the home team in any football arena in Ireland
- Go 150kph on a motorcycle through rush-hour traffic with your eyes closed
- Attend a New York Yankees game wearing a Boston Red Sox hat and jersey
- Jump out of the Eiffel Tower without a parachute
- Walk barefoot on Legos
Or you could simply do what Sammy (not his real name©) did.
It had been a rather boring day for me. So far I had gotten only 1) an 80-year old woman who had mistaken her accelerator for the brake pedal, crashed into a wall, and fractured her ankle, knee, and wrist, and 2) a 20-year old who had gotten hit by a bus and had a broken ankle. Since I don't do bones, I called the orthpaedic surgeon so he could work his magic on both of them, and I waited until something truly epic arrived.
My wait would be long and tragically fruitless.
Around 10 PM I got a call that my next patient would be a 15-year old boy who had been hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Fifteen years old. Ten o'clock at night. On a bicycle. I'll give that a second to sink in.
Hopefully you're all thinking the same thing I was at the time - What the hell is a 15-year old boy doing riding his bicycle at night? If you were thinking anything else, I'd like to invite you to leave now, since we're clearly not on the same page. Anyway, for those few of you still remaining, as I waited without bated breath, I had already started mentally reviewing the lecture I would surely be giving him about not being stupid. Sammy arrived a few minutes later looking entirely uninjured. It took me all of about 18.2 seconds (I timed it) to discover that his only outward sign of trauma was a small abrasion on his right ankle. About 5 minutes later I was looking at his completely normal X-ray, so I gave him the good news that all he had was a sprained ankle and opened my mouth to start the diatribe.
And then Mom got to to the hospital.
She had a look of sheer panic on her face, and I immediately realised that she had no idea what had happened and was imagining her son dead in a ditch. I put my harangue on hold and quickly ushered her in to reassure her that Sammy was fine, but that I needed to talk to them both.
Ready. Steady. GO.
"My first question for you," I asked Sammy, "is what the hell you were doing riding your bicycle at night." It wasn't so much a question as an opening statement.
Sammy looked a bit stunned, hung his head, and sheepishly turned away, clearly choosing not to respond rather than giving an answer that he too knew would be stupid. I looked at Mom who was staring intently at her son with the painfully-obvious "WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST DO? ANSWER THE MAN'S QUESTION!" look (Note to MomBastard: yes, I remember that look well).
But I wasn't nearly finished with him yet. Not remotely. I waited a moment until he looked back at me, and then I fixed him with a stare dead in his eye.
"I see a lot of injured patients in this trauma bay, and most of them have done something really stupid that landed them here. You just did something REALLY stupid." He looked away again.
I glanced up at Mom, expecting her to look shocked at my words, but she only nodded, silently giving her consent for me to continue. I obliged.
"Were you wearing a helmet?" He shook his head no. "THAT was stupid. Riding your bike at night? THAT was stupid. Riding your bike A) at night, B) without a helmet, and C) while wearing black sweatpants and a black shirt? THAT was REALLY stupid."
He couldn't even bring himself to look me in the eye.
"You got lucky, Sammy. This time, you got lucky. Next time you do something stupid you might not be so lucky. I do NOT want to see you back here in my trauma bay. Understood?"
He nodded, almost imperceptibly.
I turned to go and caught Mom's eye. She mouthed "Thank you" to me and started crying as I walked out without another word.
Sammy is still a young, impressionable teenager, one who still has the capacity to learn from a mistake that was indeed very stupid, though fortunately not costly. This time. Perhaps next time he won't be so lucky. But with a little reinforcement from Mom after my little tirade, maybe there won't be a next time. Maybe, just maybe, I gave Sammy something he can take with him forever.