Friday 12 May 2017


According to my research (aka a 0.385 second Google search), the most common surname in the world is Lee.  The next most common family names include Zhang, Wang, Nguyen, Garcia, Hernandez, and Smith.  Unfortunately not everyone is lucky enough to be born into such an instantly recognisable name and must instead suffer through their lives with less common names.  Others are unlucky enough to be given names like Preserved Fish, Hans Ohff, or Dick Passwater.  Yes, those people actually exist.  Really.

I, however, am named none of those things.  While my name isn't particularly difficult to pronounce for anyone with an IQ higher than a brine shrimp, that doesn't stop 90% of people from mispronouncing it.  I therefore shorten it from {redacted} to {rdctd}, but while that may be somewhat easier to pronounce, it somehow doesn't make it any easier to remember.  Most of my patients just end up calling me "Doc", as all of you fine people do (and for the record, I'm perfectly fine with that).

Mikel (not his real name™), however, had no such problem with my name.

My standard greeting when a new patient rolls into my trauma bay is "Hi, I'm Doctor Bastard, and I'll be saving your life today."  Ha! not really, but what a great introduction that would be, right?  Unfortunately I would have to be about 386 times more arrogant than I actually am to use such a line, but that doesn't stop me from fantasising about it.  Aaaah.

Anyway, in reality I introduce myself as "Doctor Bastard (not my real name™)", and 99.9452% of the time (approximately) when they repeat it, that is the last time it will ever escape their lips.  I gave Mikel that same standard salutation as he was wheeled in and the medics were giving their report. 

"Hi Doc, this is Mikel.  25 years old, no medical history.  Gunshot wound to the left abdomen, and there is, um, something sticking out of the right side of his abdomen."

Shit.  In general having something unidentifiable sticking through your abdominal wall is considered a Very Bad Thing. 

I pulled the sheet back to find that the something was a loop of his small intestine with several holes through it.  SHIT.  Yes, that definitely falls under the Very Bad Thing umbrella. 

His vital signs were ok, which meant he wasn't actively dying.  Yet.  But a trans-abdominal gunshot wound meant he needed surgery.  Now.  I knew he had at least two holes in his small intestine (that I could see) that needed fixing, but I figured that was just the proverbial tip of the proverbial iceberg.  The question was, how many more holes were there, and what organs would I be attempting to fix.

I explained all of this to Mikel, and he immediately responded "I understand, Doctor Bastard.  Thank you.  Please do everything you can, Doctor Bastard.  I really appreciate your help, Doctor Bastard."

Um.  What?  Hearing my name repeated was shocking enough. Hearing it pronounced correctly twice was astounding.  But hearing it thrice was almost enough to make me faint.  

Not really.

A quick (but thorough) examination of the remainder of Mikel's body revealed no evidence of any other injuries (not that he needed anything else to potentially kill him).  We rushed him straight to the operating theatre without delay, Mikel chattering all the while.

"You're going to save my life, Doctor Bastard.  I know you are.  I'm in your hands, Doctor Bastard.  You aren't going to let anything bad happen to me.  Isn't that right Doctor Bastard?"

It was more than just a bit unnerving.

Image result for torn jeansWhen I opened up his belly I found it full of blood, as expected.  I poked the intestine that had been protruding back inside and then examined everything.  I addition to about 2 liters of blood and the two holes in the small intestine I already knew about, I found a separate 25-cm portion of small intestine that had been essentially shredded.  Think 1990's torn jeans.  Yeah, kind of like that.

Unbelievably none of the other organs had been injured.  The stomach, gall bladder, liver, colon, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys were all completely fine.  I repaired several holes that were amenable to being fixed and removed several that were not.  After re-establishing gut continuity, I sort of felt like all the king's horses and all the king's men.

Humpty Dumpty was back together again.

The following morning before I left the hospital, I went to see Mikel first.  I was expecting to find him fast asleep, or at least lethargic as hell, considering the trauma his physiology had endured over the previous 8 hours.  Nope.  This is one instance where I was not sorry to be wrong.

"Good morning, Doctor Bastard!" he greeted me with a wan smile and a slight wince as he sat up in bed.  "You look tired.  How was the rest of your night?  How are you feeling today?"

Hey, wait.  That was supposed to be my question!  That was the second time in a row Mikel had surprised me.  I smiled and told him it didn't matter how I felt, because I wasn't the one who just had a major surgery 8 hours ago.

"I feel pretty good, Doctor Bastard.  Sore, but ok.  You saved my life!  I can't thank you enough, Doctor Bastard.  Thank you so much!"

Mikel's hospital course was amazingly fast and shockingly free of complications.  Despite the number of repairs I did and anastomoses I created, none of them leaked.  And every day when I went in to see him, Mikel greeted me with the same big smile and the same "Good morning, Doctor Bastard!  How are you today?"  Four days after his surgery, he walked out of the hospital.

And two weeks later he walked into my office with the same big smile and the same "Good morning, Doctor Bastard!" once again.  He was doing well, his incision had healed perfectly (if I do say so myself), and his intestines were all working just fine despite their recent slight reworking.  He gave me a hearty, firm handshake and several more "Thank you"s on his way out.

After he left my office, I had a few minutes to contemplate.  Perhaps my other patients would remember my name too and perhaps appreciate what I had done for them.  Maybe Mikel was a sign that things were going to change.  Huzzah!  My mood was bright as I walked in to see my next patient, a guy who had been stabbed in the leg multiple times and on whom I had spent nearly an hour sewing up.

"Good morning," I said brightly.  "How is your leg feeling?"

My hopes were dashed and my mood sent crashing back to earth by his response:

"Uh, ok I guess . . . have we met?"



  1. It can be tricky. I spent several days in the ICU ward whilst a parade of consultants came past to have a go at diagnosing me.. it's a bit hard to remember the names when you are not feeling your best and more focused on things like breathing.

  2. in my day job I find myself constantly coming into contact with people, and I am quite amazed that there seem to be people out there with some form of aphasia which prevents them from hearing a name and being able to say it anywhere near correctly. and in this I am not referring to people who speak suck a different language that their mouth is not accustomed to making the right sounds to say the name correctly. those people get a pass, in my book. these are people who you would tell "I'm doc bastard" and they would say "hi, doc standbard"
    which, by the way, we have a family of doctors named (redacted) and one goes by doc (red), the other goes by his first name.

  3. Ha doc you slipped up! We now know your real name is Redacted! Mwahahaha
    In all seriousness, I am the worst with names. I forget names immediately and have trouble putting names to faces.

    1. Don't feel too bad--there are acquaintances I've had for years whose names I still don't know, although I do recognize them if I see them around and about; it also seems to take me longer to actually remember people and put names and faces together. I have no idea why this would be the case, because I can have a surprisingly good memory in other ways, but there you have it. (When I was in the hospital after a lower GI bleed in which I lost around 20-25% of my blood, I didn't recognize the doctor who did my colonoscopy; then again, I *was* at least partially drugged during the procedure, which might have something to do with it. (I also understand why they did the procedure to begin with, but wanting me to drink a gallon of Go-Lytely barely 6 hours after I'd stopped bleeding out through my ass still strikes me as a rather bad idea. What do you think, Doc?) Oh, and it turned out that the bleed was probably due to an irritated blood vessel near one of my many diverticuli (because sometimes genetics really suck, and diverticular disease runs rampant on my paternal side).

    2. My best friend was just diagnosed diverticulitis, runs on his maternal side.. You poor thing, it breaks my heart when he gets so sick he can't do anything because him and I are busy body bingo/buffet loving weirdos.. Twice now we had to call off our buffet/bingo date and all I could do was sit on Skype while he laid around and moaned that he was in so much pain, I didn't want to leave him alone because I was scared he wouldn't be able to call an ambulance. And he is in his mid 40s..

  4. Doc Bastard, you read like the James Herriot of trauma surgery. Very clear, lively writing. Thanks for sharing your stories.

  5. Although my last name is short and simple, I can understand people not getting it -- it's so short and simple you basically miss it or you could easily mess up one of the four letters with something that rhymes (or not). On the other hand, my first name is WIDELY known in multiple languages because it has appeared in dozens of movies and animations and a book that has been translated into more than 50 languages, yet it gets butchered constantly. Go figure.

  6. One of the surgeons at the med school my brother attended (Creighton on Omaha NE) was Dr. Claude Organ. I think patients would remember his name.

    1. Of course, that was IN Omaha...

  7. It is amazing how many ways my name can be misspelt and mispronounced.
    It probably doesn;t help that when i tell someone my name, i pronounce it different ways depending on why i am giving my name and often in the same sentence.
    I have one bother with a normal name and 2 brothers with uncommon names, Merlin being one of them (dad was reading about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It could have been worse, he could have been reading Noddy or the Teletubbies.) Merlin, true to his name does magic, juggling, escapology and generally upholding the family trait of lunacy.
    He gave his 2 kids unusual names, one linked to his work.
    Most people know me via two nicknames , both easy to remember and pronounce :)

  8. Mikel sounds too good to be true. Doc Bastard are you sure you didn't dream up this patient?

  9. I don't have a common name here in the states, but a common name in Czechoslovakia.. My last name is three consonants and two vowels, no one can pronounce the name ever even after I walk them through it.. lol.. But, if you meet a Czech and tell them the last name, they respond with the name over in Czechoslovakia is as common as; water, dirt, and Smith.

    My girls were all going to be seasons or months of the year. My middle one was named after an old folklore singer and swan princess- Odette, because I knew she was going to be a musician, I knew it in my heart and soul when I was pregnant with her.. Odette plays the clarinet, bass guitar, tenor sax, barry sax, trumpet, she is learning keys and I'm trying to save up to buy her a fiddle or violin. I want both my youngest two to learn fiddle and violin and piano..
    My mom insisted I name my son after the god of war- Ares.. It kinda happened, lol..
    At my job they implemented a policy we have to call the caller by first name.. In my family you called strangers, Sir or Ma'am, because you don't know a stranger and it's disrespectful to call them by first name like you know them.. So, I stutter and panic when I do it at work, I think most my callers think there is something wrong with me..

    1. the only difference between a fiddle and a violin is the angle you hold your chin. ;D

      I find the whole forms of address thing interesting, because I have seen several different forms of address in action. I typically just use the form they introduce themselves with.
      personally, informal works just fine.

    2. and I've known a few people with names made up of strange mixtures of consonants - but usually if I heard the name I could reproduce it.

    3. I got better at Czech names when I started to follow hockey!

    4. Lol Mutzali, Czech names are fun some called me with Vohka.
      I said it with ease, he was shocked and I told him mine and we had a wonderful conversation..
      Ken I was told that and a violin has an additional string and the the wood piece you push your strings to have to be curved for one and flat for the other.. But if you learn one you learn the other basically.. Fiddles/Violins are expensive and I heard they are hard to play..

      Ken, some genders are hard to tell over the phone, dude called me sounded like chic and I addressed him as ma'am bosses from now on first names, culturally that's difficult because some people don't like strangers calling them by first names..
      Last wee was so rough, I posted to you on another thread..

    5. I meant to type someone called me with the name Vohka*

    6. I have relatives who play that family of instruments. the comment was a backhanded way of saying the biggest difference was the attitude of the player. fiddles are casual and fun, and violins tend to be self important.

    7. I left you a link on the other thread. it will get you in contact with me without dropping anonymity, here. - I can delete the link later.

  10. Oh jeez. My first name is almost unheard of. I almost start with saying it then spelling it. My last name is perfectly German, though it's my married name, and I umm, have a very white Mom and a very Mexican father. I look Caucasian, but I tan like a mofo. So I look nothing like what my married name resembles. And in the U.S. no one can spell my first or last name. I say, then immediately spell. Then correct them. Then correct them again. In any case, I'm easily quite forgettable. Because I can run it together and no one who speaks English or any other language for that matter will catch my name.

    1. is it still fashionable for parents to go to great effort to make their children's first names unheard of? every once in a while I run across a name that makes me think "why would you DO that to that poor child?"

    2. It's not exactly unheard of, it's just a name in the Bible of not a person but a place. :) it's a pretty name, I grew up tough though. I finally like it.

    3. But no one can pronounce it. What's worse? Preachers.

    4. Could be worse ken. There was this girl whose name was (just verified it looked it up wasnt hard to find) "Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii" that was her first name. And no, she wasnt hawaiian. She was born and raised in New Zealand. When a judge covering the parents divorce heard the kids name, who was to embarassed to even tell anyone it was her name, he gave a court order to change it for traumatising their child by giving her euch a horrid name

    5. Oh and they then both lost custody

    6. It's Canaan. The promised land. The land of Canaan. Pronounced Kay-Nun. But I get called Canon, Kanahn, Canahn, Canine (yes really!) and then they give up and call her Mrs. German name

      I've had preachers tell me they've never heard it before. I've had pastors tell me it was an "interesting name" smh.

    7. what self respecting preacher has never heard of Canaan?

    8. With any preacher I meet that remarks that about my name, I've done an about face and walked out of two churches.

  11. Always be nice to your kids, remember, they choose your nursing home.
    An unusual/unpronouncable name could be the difference between a so so home and an excellent one :)

  12. I am not sure how I stumbled across your blog (I am a finance guy) but somebody retweeted someone that liked someone that liked something that you liked on twitter and here I am. Just wanted to say I think you are a slick writer and I have enjoyed the posts I read recently (depressing as they may be). Keep up the great work.

    1. However you got here, we're glad to have you.


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