Friday 20 April 2018


As everyone should know based on my tagline, I usually write stories about stupid things a patient of mine has done.  I will occasionally write a story about myself, mainly stupid things I've done or said, and every now and then I will write about something stupid another doctor has done.  But I recently realised that of all the posts I've written, there is one thing woefully and glaringly absent: stories of my very smart colleagues doing very stupid things.  The reason for this is probably obvious - I don't care to write about other surgeons' blunders, preferring to focus on my own.  Sure, I talk about emergency physicians and the stupid things they've done, but they're emergency physicians and likely deserve the abuse.  (A note to all my emergency associates out there: shush, you know I secretly respect you.  And that you deserve the abuse.)

The main reason I don't write about my colleagues is that I rarely get detailed enough stories from them.  I have no reason to believe my patients and their antics are special or unique in any way, and I'm sure the other trauma surgeons have just as many stories as I do.

Except Dr. John (not his real name™).  Not because he doesn't have as many, but because he has more.

Way more.

Dr. John always seems to have bad stuff happen around him and has been described as having a bit of a black cloud over him.  I think this is quite understated: He is a certified, bona fide, 100% undisputed shit magnet.  Wherever there is a shitstorm, you can rest assured that Dr. John is at the center of it.  It obviously isn't his fault - he isn't the one out there crashing cars into trees, toppling motorcycles over ravines, or stabbing people in the face.  No, he's just the trauma surgeon taking care of the people who have all decided to have these terrible things happen to them all at the same time.

Lest you think I'm exaggerating, I'm not.  At all.  He will often still be in the operating theatre four or five hours after his shift is over, still fixing the mess from the previous day.  Fortunately he is a very good surgeon, but the patients that he acquires always seem sicker, more badly injured, and more bizarre than mine.  This was almost exactly the case recently, except instead of finishing surgery four hours after his shift was over, it was twelve hours.

And I finally discovered why.

I was on call one recent Sunday after John had been on call the previous day.  I instantly knew it had been another Dr. John Shitstorm because his stuff was still littering the call room when I got there and the bed looked not-at-all-slept-in.  So I got out my computer and started reading (Ready Player One, if you're curious), waiting for him to come and gather his stuff.

And I waited.  (Good book)

Aaand I waited more.  (Very good book)

Aaaaand I waited more (Wow, that was a fun book)

About ten hours, zero traumas, and no John later, my pager finally went off with my first patient of the day: a fall.  Sigh.  I walked down to the trauma bay where I was greeted with an elderly person who fell out of a chair the previous day and had no injuries.  While I was working her up, another trauma came in, this one a very lightly injured car accident victim.  Two patients, two discharges.  It was shaping up to be a very light day . . . until Trauma Nurse Martha (not her real name™) decided to pipe up.

"Doctor Bastard," she said with a grin, "we're going to have a good night.  I can feel it.  You're going to get some sleep tonight!"  There was dead silence as everyone stared at her, mouths agape.


Martha has been a trauma nurse for about 20 years, so she obviously knows about the Call Gods.  She also knows that what she just said is never to be even thought about, let alone uttered aloud. 

After finishing discharging the two traumas, I went back to my call room, muttering something about Martha fucking knowing better the entire way.  It was now just past 8 PM, just over halfway through my shift.  Still, it had been very quiet for a Sunday as I had had only had two patients so far.  I could feel the sense of foreboding rising inside me when I got a text from John.

Hey is my stuff in the call room?

It seemed John was finally done with whatever the hell he was doing.  He came to the call room a few minutes later, and with a huge grin on his face he recounted the two car accident victims he had gotten 15 minutes before his shift was up, both of whom had suffered lacerations to their mesentery (the blood supply to the intestine), both of whom had segments of bowel which were dead and required resection, and both of whom were now barely clinging to life.  I listened, rapt, as he detailed the procedures he had done, amazed at his bad luck.  

"Wow, rough shift," I told him when he finally took a breath.

"I love this stuff!" he replied with a laugh.  

What?  Despite having been awake for at least 38 hours and looking completely exhausted, he was as giddy as a schoolboy.  We chatted for a few more minutes as he collected his things.  On his way out the door, he said something that made me understand the Dr. John Shitstorm:

"I hope your night is quiet.  Have a great night!"


The rest of my night went exactly as you expect after both Martha and John decided to give a big "FUCK YOU" to the Call Gods.  Keeping in mind that I only had two traumas over the previous 14 hours, I then got a drunk man who fell down the stairs at 11 PM, a drunk driver who crashed into a tree just before midnight, a stabbing at 1 AM, a drunk man who fell off a bicycle at 2 AM and an elderly woman who fell out of bed at 4 AM. 

The end of my shift finally rolled around, ending my misery.  I may have said a few not-so-subtle curses under my breath, but they were directed not at the Call Gods, but rather at John and Martha.  After what Martha and John said, I couldn't even blame the Call Gods for what they did to me.

But at least now I got it.  I finally understood why John is a shit magnet.  Because John doesn't give a fuck about the Call Gods.  He challenges them.  He taunts them.  He uses them to fuel his desire to operate on fucking everyone.

John is a shit magnet because he wants to be.


  1. famous last words:
    "I'm not feeling very firey tonight"
    "don't take this wrong, but I hope I don't see you again." (seriously, he is forbidden to say this.)

    but my secret weapon: "see you in an hour"
    I think it confuses them.

  2. Well least he takes the shit so no one else has to.
    Also since you liked the book,howd you like the movie? Or not been able to see it yet?
    I thought it was pretty decent. May buy it on definately will

  3. MY ER/trauma experience is limited to the perspective of a patient or patient family member. So I don't understand lots of things. But if Dr John had two patients at the very end of his shift that needed difficult surgery, why didn't Doc B take one?

    1. It may have been a continuity-of-care situation.

      basically, Dr John knew everything that was known about the patients, and if he transferred care to Doc B, then he would have to try to transfer all of that knowledge to Doc B. sometimes that works okay, and sometimes it doesn't. I know there have been planned surgeries where one surgeon will hand off the procedure to another at a preplanned point in the surgery, but emergency medicine is the opposite of preplanned.

      I'm sure if there had been a need for him, Doc would have been paged.

    2. I got there after the patients arrived, and no one notified me of their presence. If John had asked me to take care of one or both of them, I would have. But he seems to enjoy pain.

  4. I guess I can see why John would say what he did, but what the hell was Martha thinking?!

  5. So now you have to hope you're scheduled for the shift BEFORE Dr. John so you can give him an evil grin and say, "It looks like you're going to get some sleep tonight!"


  6. You guys sound like medical intern to me. I hate to say this but i’ve had general surgeons who couldn’t even manage a simple MI. Would you know what to do Doc?

    1. you mean a myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack? I'm sure doc knows what to do, but since it doesn't count as a trauma, he probably doesn't do it much. doc being, as his byline says, a trauma surgeon. this means minor stuff like placing stents, and planned stuff, like bypass surgery, don't usually come to him.

    2. Anon - Let me try to demonstrate just how silly you sound.

      I’ve seen nephrologists who couldn’t manage a simple splenic laceration.

      Should I go on, or do you get the point yet? I’ll try to make it even simpler for you: yes, I know how to manage an MI, though I wouldn’t try to because it is outside my area of expertise, just like I wouldn’t ask a cardiologist to take out a gall bladder. That’s why specialties exist.

  7. This strangely reminds me of "the ballad of John and Marsha" (Stan Freberg, I think)...but that's only due to the names. Sorry your evening got screwed by multiple taunts of the Call Gods!

  8. I would have required Martha to go outside, turn around three times while hopping on one foot and then spit. To appease the Call Gods.

  9. I like the cut of John's jib.

  10. Replies
    1. maybe he's been following John's shift a lot.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. more spam, doc. time to thin the herd, a bit.

    2. Any idea what it says outa curiosity?

    3. In Arabic it said "In the name of God the Merciful We are in the company of perfection we do all the services of transport of grass and the basis of the road under the supervision of a large team trained at the highest level of levels with jaw and installation"

      No, seriously. Thanks, Google Translate.

    4. I just leave my grass wherever it grows.

  12. So glad Doc B is alive and well!

  13. ^^^^ (formerly known as 'Not Your Average Housewife')

  14. Hey Doc, the paragraph right over the text from John has too many “had”s in one of the sentences. Feel free to delete this comment when you’re done with it.


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