Monday 20 February 2017

Unvaluable lesson

I try my best to find valuable lessons in dealing with trauma patients.  As I've told my children repeatedly, any day you learn something is not a wasted day.  Many of these life lessons are easy - use your seat belt, slow down, don't drink and drive, don't attack the police, don't be stupid - but some of them can be slightly more obscure and difficult to discern, and it takes me a while to figure out what I've been able to take away.

As you have probably guessed, this story definitely falls into that latter category.

I know I write a lot about gun violence, and it must seem to you that anyone around me can walk into a corner store, buy a gun of his or her choosing, and immediately start firing at everyone and everything for any goddamned reason.  The truth is that it isn't nearly as common as I make it sound (fortunately).  If it were, it would be like the OK Corral with bullets whizzing around my head constantly (I assume - I wasn't actually there despite how old my children think I am).  Luckily reality isn't quite like that and guns aren't that easy to obtain.  I just write about those stories more than the 84-year-old who fell off her toilet and bonked her head on the bathtub, because who the hell wants to read about that crap.  I just re-read that last sentence and almost deleted it because it's so stupidly boring.

Oh, and before I go on and before anyone starts a pedantic comment regarding the title, I fully realise that "unvaluable" is not a real word.  Unfortunately due to a remarkably stupid quirk in the English language, "invaluable" is actually a synonym of "valuable", much like "inflammable" means "flammable".  There just is no good antonym.  So I made one up.  Sue me. 

Now where was I?  Ah right, guns and valuable lessons.  That is where our story starts.

Nancy (not her real name™) was brought to me as a Level 1 (high level) trauma, and unlike many of my Level Ones who are unresponsive because they are drunk, she was a real Level 1.  

"Hey Doc, this is Nancy.  She's 25, multiple gunshot wounds.  We saw one on the right chest, two in the right arm, two in the left wrist, and two in the neck.  She's been stable, complaining of right chest pain and shortness of breath."


With all those holes you might expect Nancy to be near death (I certainly did), but she wasn't.  Not even close.  Sure, she was uncomfortable and unhappy, but her vital signs were fine.  My evaluation (read: where I found holes) was consistent with what the medics had told us:

  • Right chest
  • Right upper back
  • Right upper arm (2)
  • Left wrist (2)
  • Back of neck (2)
A quick examination of the neck (since that seemed the most immediately life-threatening injury) revealed it was a simple graze wound somehow.  Lucky girl.  An X-ray of all the other various Parts With Holes showed no fractures in the wrist or the arm (LUCKY GIRL), but she did have a few broken ribs and a haemothorax (blood in the right chest).  A simple chest tube and some pain medicine should suffice, and she would most certainly live to tell her tale. 

Which left only her tale.  What made someone shoot this young lady four times?  What had she done to deserve this?  

Nothing, it turns out.  It was her boyfriend Will (not his real name™) who has caused this. 

The police told me later that Will had wanted a gun, but instead of figuring out which hoops to jump through to buy one legally, he decided to buy one from Some Guy With Guns In His Car.  I don't think Some Guy With Guns has a permit, but that didn't stop Will.  Oh no, not at all.  

But Will had another problem.  In addition to a severe shortage of guns in his possession, he also had no money.  Most idiots who want to buy a gun illegally but have at least half a functional brain would probably find some just-as-illegal way to find some money, and that's exactly what Will did.  Sort of.  Will did acquire some money illegally, but that illegal money he illegally obtained in order to acquire his illegal gun illegally was counterfeit.

You probably see where this story is going. 

Will drove with Nancy to buy his gun and gave his funny money to Some Guy With Guns In His Car.  Unfortunately (and despite his choice of occupations) Some Guy was somehow bright enough to recognise the fake bills.  Even more unfortunately Will hadn't foreseen the very slight problem with trying to trick a guy with guns: THE OTHER GUY HAS GUNS.  So Some Guy did the only logical thing for a guy in his position: he used the gun on Will, who did not survive long enough to earn a trip to my trauma bay.  He then used it on Nancy, who did. 

After this episode I went back over it with a fine-toothed comb to find the learning point.  What could I take away from this?  How could I enrich my life and the lives of those around me?  It took quite a while of searching, but the only thing I could glean, the only lesson I found, was "Don't buy an illegal gun with fake money".  A valuable life lesson?  Hardly.  


I somehow wonder why Aesop never wrote a fable about that little moral. 

P.S. For any of you playing on the last post, the correct answer (not counting duplicates) was 20.


  1. My motto has always been "you learn something new every day, so if you learn it early, you can take the rest of the day off."

  2. Small typo;in the first paragraph, it should be "don't drink and drive"

    1. I dunno, "down drink and drive" sounds like a great life motto to me

  3. The take away from this is, don't be like Nancy an especially don't be like Will.

  4. Clearly, where there's a Will there's no pay.

  5. Umm, don't date dumb guys? Use common sense?

    1. I doubt she has more upstairs than Will did.

    2. Lol.. We had a Will as an employee once.. Dumber than shit he was. He picked his nose mid sentence ate the booger and ran his finger along the mouth rim of my closed energy drink.. And he would sit in the office and suck on his fingers and then touch you.. The nose picking was the last straw because I'm glued to my dispatch desk for 14 hours with what I bring in to work, I don't get lunches or breaks so I can't just dump everything and buy new..
      Even after the guys sterilized my drink with Clorox bleach wipes, washed it with antibacterial soap, poured bleach over the mouth part.. Nope, just nope, not even going to drink it or touch it..

  6. I'd go for "Crime never pays." myself.

  7. I can't resist being pedantic. Unvaluable _is_ a word, according to the venerable OED, dating to the mid 17th century or earlier and means...(drum roll)...the same thing as invaluable. OED also notes that unvaluable or invaluable can mean either "of high value" or "worthless". Take your pick.

    Enjoy this invaluable comment!

    1. I think the better antonym for "valuable" is "valueless". Although I like “unvaluable” more.


  8. The lesson I got was...don't date a guy who illegally buys guns with fake money, and don't bring your girlfriend with you to buy illegal guns.

  9. Learn to print better counterfeit money?

  10. Maybe worthless ? I'm Dutch so my English probably isn't the greatest hehe.

    And seriously.. buying an illegal gun with fake money is just asking to being shot..

  11. The word you are most likely looking for is "valueless"

  12. ...shades of Things I Learn From My Patients...

    Though it seemed to work out relatively ok for her, so I guess it's more like 'definitely don't bring counterfeits to a gun sale, but neutral on bringing your gf'

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Off topic

    Hey Doc Happy Sunday.

    Hey Doc, i thought you might like this post from mom on the keep Jahi Mcmath on life support FB page

    February 17 at 11:27pm ·

    Jahi and her mother Nailah sending their love to you. Nailah loves you all and thanks you for your love, especially the prayers for Jahi. Jahi is well, God is showing His love and grace daily. JAHI is taking breaths on her own and holding on to a pen with a tight grip, attempting to draw lines. Videos will be posted. Thank you for all your support, prayers and keeping the faith! May God continue to bless you and your family.
    Picture of Jahi and Nailah on Valentines Day. ❤️❤️❤️🙏🏽🙏🏽

    I can't wait for the video, a dead girl breathing on her own and attempting to draw lines (write?)

    Presumably these lines will only be when she has a Lazarus sign.

    I wonder if they have yet allowed the Drs to do the apnoea tests and relevant brain scans to prove she is 'alive' or is that on the honey do list?

    I love the comments that get posted there, even though i am banned from posting there myself:(

    1. she holds the pen with a tight grip when they tape it to her hand, and draws lines when they move the paper.

    2. Exactly Ken.

      next thing is, she will write answers to their questions and if that doesn't work they'll get her pointing to letters and words on a board, oops excuse me that would be a Ouija board :)

    3. Let's please remember to keep it respectful.

    4. There is a video out of it. It's on the team Jahi: family in denial page. Shows a pen in her hand. Her thumb is twitching. The camera goes to her face for a brief time showing eyes covered with gauze.

    5. Her eyes are covered in nearly every picture I've seen. There's only one reasonable explanation for that: she hasn't opened her eyes. And as anyone who understands brain function knows, if you can hold and/or operate a pen, you can open your eyes.


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