Monday 6 March 2017

Stupidly obviously stupid

Life on planet Earth is generally complicated.  There are way too many questions and very few definitive answers.  Why are we here?  What is our purpose?  Is there life on other planets?  If not, why not?  How can there possibly be a septillion (that's 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) stars (approximately) in the known universe with Sol being the only one to have evolved life?  But if there is other life out there, how is it possible that just one of them hasn't evolved to the point of interstellar travel and visited us?  Well, here is one possible explanation:

I didn't intend on going in this direction when I sat down to write this.  I should probably stop writing these when I'm post-call, sleep deprived, and caffeine deprived as well.  My brain starts doing strange things.  Let me try to get back on track.  Hm.

Anyway, with all the unknowns surrounding us, there are fortunately a few knowns, a few certainties, a few obviousnesses.  (Yes, I know that isn't a word.  It is now.  So there.)  For example: everyone reading this (and for that matter, everyone not reading this) will die.  Sorry if I just spoiled your day, but it's a natural part of every life (unless you are bitten by a zombie, then all bets are off).

There are a few more plainly obvious things that come to mind:
  • vaccines work (yeah, you knew I'd squeeze that in somehow)
  • homeopathy doesn't work (that too)
  • stupid people do stupid things
  • there are a lot more stupid people than smart people
Those last two might not have been too obvious to me as I grew up, but after doing what I do for as long as I have done it, they certainly are now.  One of the basic tenets of life, something that I consider to be obvious, clearly is not to far too many people: Don't be stupid.  I don't mean "Don't be unintelligent", because not everyone is born with a high IQ and can understand quantum physics and do calculus.  No, by "Don't be stupid" I mean "Don't do stupid things".  Even smart people do stupid things sometimes (myself included), but there are some things that you just don't do no matter how stupid you are.  Anyone with an intelligence above the level of "cabbage" or "chihuahua" or "antivaxxer" should know not to do things that put himself, his children, and everyone around him in immediate and extreme danger.

Howard (not his real name™) apparently didn't get that message.

It was a Saturday night much like any other, which is to say that it was full of stupid people doing stupid things.  Stupid people getting stupidly drunk at the pub and falling in the parking lot.  Stupid medics not realising that the 90-year-old woman they brought to me as a trauma who had crumpled to the ground 4 days ago was severely dehydrated and septic and not a trauma patient.  Stupid people who still haven't figured out how to call a cab instead of driving home drunk.  Howard fell into that last category of course, though I had a total of four similar patients that night, all after midnight.  Of course.

At first he seemed like any other drunk driver - just merely a guy who had drunk too much and run his car into a tree.  I'm always just a tad gratified when a drunk driver is in a single-vehicle accident, because at least he hadn't injured any innocent bystanders, bywalkers, bybicyclists, or bydrivers.  Yes, I just created "bywalkers", "bybicyclists", and "bydrivers" too.  This is a good day.

Moving on.

Howard admitted to having "Two drinks" at first, which changed to "A few drinks" several minutes afterwards, to "A lot" a bit later.  He was complaining of pain in his left thigh, which made me worried that he had fractured his femur.  But as we continued asking questions, the real Howard made himself known awfully quickly.  He started acting obnoxious and entitled, but when the police showed up, he stopped cooperating entirely.

Our workup was fortunately fairly benign - no femur fracture, just a few bumps and bruises and a minor pelvic fracture that would require nothing but pain medicine and time.  But just as quickly as my worry turned to relief, my relief turned to outrage when the police gave me the real story.

Howard had gone to a friend's house for a night of drunken carousing and debauchery (I assume), but he hadn't bothered to find a babysitter for his twin boys, so he had brought them along.  The boys, if you are curious, were all of 18 months old.  I don't know what possessed him to drive home drunk with his twin toddlers in the back of his car instead of calling a taxi.  And I definitely don't know what made him think that going close to 200 kph (around 120 mph) while drunk was a good idea.  WITH HIS TWIN TODDLERS IN THE BACK SEAT.

I was informed that the boys had been taken to the local children's hospital, but that by some stroke of good luck, both were ok.  I couldn't help but think that if Howard had been a victim of drunk driving (rather than a perpetrator), his boys probably wouldn't not have been so lucky.  Bad guys always seem to get away with it, for some stupid reason.  And if you're wondering where the boys' mother was, I didn't get that far in my questioning.  I had to go find a safe space to scream my fool head off.

If it hasn't become clear to you yet, this episode made me angry.  As a trauma surgeon, it made me livid.  But as a father, it made me so furious that it made me want to grab him by his ears, slap him repeatedly in the face, and scream in his face "WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU!??  Those aren't just helpless, defenseless children that you could have killed, those are YOUR helpless, defenseless children that you could have killed!!  It was luck, and ONLY luck that kept you and your entire family from dying tonight!  And not only that, but you put MY helpless, defenseless children at risk with your idiocy!  Moron!  Idiot!  Asshole!"

Excuse me, I need to go find that safe space again.  I'll be right back.


  1. I discovered recently that child car seats are only tested to 30mph!(in the UK at least) This doesn't fill me with confidence when it's routinely necessary to drive childrent at 70 on the motorway under normal circumstances but doing nearly twice that while steaming drunk is just madness.

    Some people do not deserve children.


  2. Sigh, sounds like my Saturday night..

    The D and A are district and area.. Double header means two cars, more could have been involved, and in the case of the A I know more were involved..
    D5 double header- drunk driver vs non-drunk driver..
    D8 double header- no drunks thankfully.
    A4- double header- drunk driver vs multiple cars.
    D8- single car accident- drunk driver
    D8- drunk driver ran over a person in a motorized wheelchair, person in wheelchair was in critical condition last we heard.
    D8- drunk driver plowed in to a street of cars and ran from the scene..
    Like your all God's, we have the similar thing, and we run in themes for the night, that happened to be my double header drunk driver caused accidents..
    Last night drunk driver got violent with the police and the police won..
    Two words you don't say in our dispatch- quiet and snow..
    Saturday night two calls we didn't get, a woman jumped off a bridge on to one of our major freeways and one of my drivers unfortunately had to see it, he was horrified because someone ran her over after she hit the ground.. and a drunk driver plowed in to a telephone pole, wrapped his car and caught on fire..

    Rough weekend for us all this weekend..

    1. we just had snow over the weekend. not sure if any of the calls were duplicates, but we had 6 in 12 hours. (only one in my response area and I was out of area for that one, so I missed them all.)

    2. So you understand the doubles.. Worse we got was a fiver after a layer of snow got us.. It was snowing here off and on all morning, I made it home in time to get out and ahead of it.. Fri/Sat I have 14 hour graves and Sunday is my 12 hour grave.. I get the weekend graveyard madness..

    3. my normal friday starts at 8 and rolls to fire duty at 5, officially ending at 8 in the morning. but I normally have my pager on around the clock.

    4. I bet you get weekend crazies, Ken aren't you on the west coast?

    5. Every once in a while it gets interesting. the one you can probably appreciate is the ones who drive over concrete medians and strip important bits off the underside of their cars.

      but sometimes it's dead as a rock, and others, it's as soon as I get settled back in. we've got one guy who is now forbidden to use the phrase "hope I don't see you again, tonight"

    6. Lol, the Uber driver that decided to high center his car on a medium/jersey barrier with his passengers heading to the airport. Oh those calls are the easiest.. The fatalities make me cry especially the fatalities that involve an innocent getting killed by a drunk driver. I watched my driver fall apart having to pick up a car of a DUII that hit and killed an 8 month pregnant woman.. My driver is a grandma (young one) that hides her humanity well and she is a biker, first time I seen her show her human side..

      I wish we could outlaw stupidity..
      Ken aren't you a medic, so you get to deal first hand, every once in a while a busy won't be cleared before we get on scene and I'm the crisis person for my team..

    7. A body*
      And at times they aren't covered and I learn if my guys have it or not.. and not having it is okay, and I keep them away from those calls as much as possible..

    8. I'm a first due rescuer, but technically not a medical responder. the ones that are bad on you folks are when we get an entrapped DRT. usually we will call for a tow to deliver the wreck to someplace easier to do the extrication. fortunately, with modern cars, those are becoming less common, as long as people wear their seatbelts and don't do the stupid.

    9. I have fortunately only gotten one life or death call to assist life flight.. Women's car went off highway 26, I call it the death highway- picked up a bunch of fatalities off of it over the summer.. Woman's car went off the road not sure if it hit another car first, flipped, went between two trees and got stuck. The roof caved in, it was on its roof and the doors were blocked from being opened by the two trees, it had caught fire and they were trying to get her out, no where to rip parts off with the jaws/saws of life.. We have permission to expedite of all expedites, we can push our trucks to about 110 and we get a police escort and we get to defy logic/physics/man's laws.. She lived, a little worse for wear, but she lived, those handy dandy seatbelts come in handy..

      The typical time we see life or death is a little place by our work that doesn't have safety rails and people decided drowning in their car in the Columbia River is the best way to go.. They fly down that busy road and swerve right over the embakemt and off in to the river they go.. Our mediums get sent out for water recoveries because of the weight of the vehicle due to water saturation and the mediums don't go 110, but our big boys get pushed to save the person.. We had two water recoveries in one night on my shift and two more for suicides that they had just found a few days later when the water levels dropped..

      Oh yes the crumple zones, I seen a car turn in to the middle of a truck sammich, ford focus self peeled the 4 major zones and I couldn't figure out if the people lived or not by the images, they did because those 4 zones gave way and took full impact.. So it looked split down the center both ways..

      First responders have my respect on all levels, I just take the call and dispatch, I rarely get in to a truck and I'm a little blonde chick so it's hilarious watching me throw around dollies.. I see people at their worse at times, scared and alone in an accident, I turned one of my tow trucks in to an ambulance once. Woman was in a low impact accident but she was older, driver looked over at her because she was being discombobulated and seen her eyes were dialated wonky and my driver was a volunteer firefighter, search and rescue and a Marine. He told me he thought she should go in and she wasn't having no part of it so he took her in anyways because she was trying to go to sleep on him in the truck.. She was bleeding on the brain and she called to thank him later for making her go..
      We aren't all bad in my profession, we don't do the PPIs or I would quit..

      Ken just Incase no one has told you lately, thank you for what you do..

    10. as I tell people, what other exciting hobby can you find that gets somebody else to pay for all your toys. our latest big change is that we are working on integrating the coast guard into our county rope rescue team. it sounds like a win-win. they are required to have rope rescue training, and they have access to the REALLY expensive toys.

    11. One of my guys is search and rescue, we get a lot of those here on our trails.. I love news toys, here we do have a specialty team for rope rescues.. They are meant to go to mount hood and (forgive me I don't know the term) rope climb hiking rescues.. Protestors showed up and had rope rigs off the side of one of our bridges, they had to get that team out here to cut them down and bring them down to boats to be arrested.. It was back in 2013 and it was green peace doing the protesting.. I imagine we have numerous different teams because Oregon being mountains, high desert, forest, ocean, massive rivers, coast dunes..

    12. has it been so long since the bridge protest? time definitely goes faster as we get older. I remember watching that and thinking that except the dangler probably put up a fight, it would be a good chance to practice. and you certainly had more than your fair share of people falling off the edge last summer. our biggest claim to fame is our surf team. we're now at the point that we train our neighbors. though we had a rough summer at that, too, as you probably saw. (I'm not going to get precise about where we are, but I'm sure you can guess from there, being as close as we are)

    13. I wanted to join the dune rescue for sand dune and beach rescues because I want my toys bought, but the pre-req was own your own toys, I imagine I could have used them as a tax write off..
      I can gander a guess but I respect anonymity.. We have surfers but wind surfing in the gorge is the most popular as our ocean up here is colder and less wavey.. lol.. I knew west coast, but I'll take a guess and fully respect you not answering if I'm correct or wrong- your state is my namesake even though my name is because Calico is my RL nicname..
      I have been to my neighboring states many times, I love traveling as a hobby and checking out state cultures..

    14. actually, the surf in Oregon is way stronger than down in CA.
      but no, I'm close enough that our local news zones overlap.

  3. I vote you continue with the post call sleep deprived writing. it is much more entertaining, not to mention the benefits to our vocabulary.

  4. If only we could slap away stupidity!

  5. Yasss, the new words are always fun! Plus, CALVIN & HOBBES!

  6. Doc, you don't need to go to a safe place to deal with your anger. Call local child care services and fill them with the story and details - place your anger there. Say that the father is putting his twin boys into deadly danger. He probably won't be seeing them again, and he well deserved it. You might even preventively save the boys' lives by doing this.

    Please don't object with "obligation to secrecy" blabla. The lives of the boys is a higher good than that. And he very clearly and deliberately risked their death.

    Second, go to the guy and let him feel your anger. Say you find it appalling as a father. I always found that if one speaks directly from the heart, it makes most of an impression on people. Only heartfelt messages will shake them awake. Mention that you don't want his twin sons to die one day on your operation table because he just wouldn't switch on his brain. Remind him that his wife spent a lot of pain, suffering, energy and sleepless nights into giving them life, and he all values that ZERO. He was about to crush all this in one single moment. He doesn't value life at all: not his, not his sons'.

    In short: Go chew his a**.

    For sure anger management is a good thing, but maybe today we've taken it too far. Anger, expressed reasonable, is a social reaction and can open many eyes.

    1. I suspect the police are already handling the first part.

  7. wonder what happened to those twins. foster care? mom? grandma? back to awful dad? we'll never know.

  8. Doc, PLEASE tell us the kids were taken away!

  9. When people tell me that the chiropractor cured them, my thought is, "the placebo effect is strong in this one!"


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