Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Postcard from internship

So the other night, I'm interviewing this vet with no legs. At some point, it seemed reasonable to ask about it.

Me: Sir, I notice that both your legs have been amputated above the knees. What happened to your legs?

Him: <flinging the sheet aside, inspecting his well-healed stumps with some surprise> I don't know, Doc. Couldn't really tell you. I don't remember.

You can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Last month, one of my ICU patients called the police from his hospital bed and told them I was trying to kill him. The police showed up at 2 AM -- I suppose they have to -- to take the patient's story and to question me. As it happened, that night was one of the busiest nights in the ICU that entire month; we admitted four or five patients over the course of as many hours, several of them desperately sick. I stopped briefly to talk with the officers as I moved from disaster to catastrophe. Of course I'm not trying to kill my patient, I told the cops. Although now that you mention it, the idea does have merit. I'm not sure what's happened since then with the investigation; I certainly haven't heard anything more from the police. And the incident did yield a dash of surreal humor to what would have otherwise been an entirely humorless night.

As luck would have it, I readmitted this delightful patient to the hospital on Sunday night.


So far, he hasn't called the police again to report me (so far as I know), but every encounter with him is intensely unpleasant. This man may be the most miserable human being I have ever met. He is nasty and hostile. He is racist and sexist. I can't so much as greet him without being subject to a stream of profanity and disdain, sarcasm, rage, hate. Because he's been sick more or less continuously since July, he has been cared for, at one time or another, by many of my resident colleagues. So far as I can tell, he is universally despised. Post-call yesterday, I was briefing the dayfloat resident (DFR) who covered for me in the afternoon. As it turned out, DFR also had cared for my patient, a couple of months before, and he knew more about this man's history. Apparently, a few years ago, my patient's college-aged daughter was raped and murdered. And that's why he's so miserable and mean, DFR said.

Wait a minute, there. I certainly don't diminish the tragedy my patient has experienced. But does a tragedy -- even a horrific one -- entitle him to be hateful to strangers? Maybe I'm heartless, but I don't think it does.

Monday, November 9, 2009

California Academy of Sciences

Yesterday we took Sam to the California Academy of Sciences. He pretty much made this face all afternoon:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Great Pumpkin 2