Now before anyone accuses me of being "ageist" or something, just stop a minute and think. Is it "ageist" to expect a 20-year-old kid to understand how the world works? No, of course not. Young kids just aren't old enough and therefore don't have the necessary experience. That's why we (generally) don't elect 20-somethings to elected office; they just don't know any better. On the other hand, it also is not ageist to expect a middle-aged person to have accumulated enough firsthand knowledge of things to avoid doing seriously stupid shit. Older people should just know better.
Quincy (not his real name™) should just know better.
I should start by saying that Quincy is not a stupid man, or so I found out later. That was not the initial impression I got, however.
It was early afternoon on a beautiful bright warm Saturday afternoon when Quincy was brought to my trauma bay in a rather sorry state. I rarely get the full story from the medics, relying only on rough bits of information. This case was no different.
"Hi everyone, this is Quincy. 54 years old. Helmeted rider of a motorcycle, crashed at around 70 kph (about 45 mph). Brief ell oh see (LOC: loss of consciousness), awake and alert now. Complaining of severe abdominal pain, right hand pain, left hip pain."
Normally at this point in a trauma operation I would close and everyone would high-five and congratulate each other for another life saved (not really), but not today. No, now came the really fun part: cleaning up.
Two days later his peritoneal cavity was surprisingly nearly spotless. There were only a few partially digested bits of food left, and after irrigating with more litres of saline irrigation, I closed him.
A couple of days later after Quincy was extubated and off the ventilator, I finally got to ask him what I had wanted to know since he arrived: why had he crashed. His answer was something I would expect from a teenager.
"Well you see Doc, I was showing off to the guys in my motorcycle club, doing a wheelie, and . . ."
"Wait," I interrupted, "you were doing a wheelie? At 70 kph? Are you aware you're 54 years old?"
He smiled weakly and laughed even more weakly. "Yeah, it was probably stupid."
He laughed again.
I had a very long chat with Quincy and his wife about his recklessness and how he was too old
for this shit. I could almost excuse this kind of nonsense behaviour with a 20-year old kid (almost) because that's what 20-year old kids do - stupid shit. But not Quincy. It turns out he was a highly intelligent, articulate, competent middle aged man who just had a momentary lapse of judgement that nearly ended his life. Quincy's wife looked me dead in the eye and assured me that his motorcycle was already up for sale at a bargain price. I suspect it will be sold to a reckless kid who will probably do something equally stupid with it.
But that's probably just my Inner Pessimist talking.