Thursday, December 1, 2016

An Obituary Translator

Aging opens new doors and inspires new pursuits. Lately, I have found a new interest in  perusing a collection of old obituaries accumulated over the years. Almost all of my coworkers have gone on to their great reward in that green ceramic tiled O.R. temple in the sky. At least for them, the OR is back where it belongs on the highest floor. I never felt comfortable when working in an OR that was located below that traditional top floor locus. Having been raised in a sky God culture maybe I will enjoy that top floor OR suite again in my afterlife having served my time in OB purgatory.

 While perusing my collection of old obituaries, I noticed that some  obituaries contained half-truths and downright lies in a belated attempt to bolster dubious accomplishments of some people that were hard core blowhards with questionable abilities.  It's not wise to speak ill of the deceased, but some of these phony embellishments are in dire need of correction. Without further ado, (don't you just love it when oldsters talk like that?) I present the actual  text from the obit followed by my foolish, but truthful translations. All identifiers have been redacted. (I hope.)

This orthopaedic surgeon was also affliliated with The County Zoo and performed surgery on gorillas and other large primates.
I did not make this one up, but did change the name of the zoo to further blur the surgeon's identity. This surgeon would operate on virtually any carbon based life-form, dead or alive. I was scrubbed on the thoracic surgery side  of a severely traumatized auto accident victim with the above orthopedic surgeon working as a separate team on a complex femoral fracture. The thoracic surgeon declared the patient dead, but we could not get this one track ortho man to cease work on the fractured femur. He was like one of Pavlov's dogs and the conditioned response to set a fracture in man or beast / dead or alive was his signature.

Unfortunately, the one track orthopaedic thought process sometimes has it's head buried in the sand. With a mind that sometimes has it's head up it's own rear end, mindlessness of  other vital medical issues produces a colo-rectal surgical  mentality  that is definitely not patient centered. Enough said!

Dr. Y was known for his compassionate and caring manner with a kind smile or a heartfelt embrace to share with family and friends.
The closest I ever came to a "heartfelt embrace" from this surgeon was the time I dodged  a hemostat flung at me with great velocity and I collided with his slow to duck resident. Maybe that kindly smile was obscured by his mask or only present when he hit pay dirt with his  hemostat missiles ,but I highly doubt it. It was more of a smirky, smart alecy smile.

When asked, "Who are your patients?" This sports medicine orthopod replied, "Anyone who is an athlete, or was an athlete, or anyone that enjoys reading sports oriented periodicals."
This well to do orthopedic  surgeon was into medical marketing before advertising corrupted healthcare. Unlike specialties like gynecology, which limits it's practice to 50% of the population, this doctor took on all comers. I used to marvel at the irony of his office décor which consisted of pictures of  steroid fueled line backers delivering crushing, bone shattering blows to hapless ball carriers.  Gross illustrations of compound fractures in the making. This might have been good for his business, but very bad for his battered patients. His office décor that  promoted and glorified such trauma inducing behavior made me wonder why oncologists did not have cigarette ads on display in their offices to help bolster their patient load.

He was a person with a vision; we are what we are today because of people like Bob who did an outstanding job of laying our foundation. Blah..Blah..Blah
This is from the obit of a bigshot health system CEO or back in the day what we referred to as hospital director. Nurses like me made about $1000 per month while the hospital director received about $1400 per month. He used to show his paycheck to prove he was one of us. Times have certainly changed, I wonder what the ratio of CEO to nurse's pay is today.

One of my secrets to long term survival as a nurse was to avoid any hospital or nursing administrative big shots like the plague. The OR was an ideal place, as administrators never showed up there. I would have rather scrubbed for an 8 hour surgical marathon than attend a 45 minute administrative meeting of any kind. Office sitters  and meetings seem to go hand in hand. Meetings bring out the core elements of their very nature of sitting and jaw-jacking without having the slightest clue of clinical activities.   Time to stop - I'm getting carried away.

When appropriate, he could be tough as steel. He ran a strict, no nonsense operating room and that was the only place he was heard to swear.
The writer of this gem must have had limited exposure to this loudmouth of a  surgical blowhard. He used nasty language just about everywhere. He was certainly no Dr. Slambow who considered it poor form to utter benign expletives like "balderdash" or "phooey." The most common and understandable stimulus for cussing in the OR is unexpected equipment malfunction at a critical stage of surgery such as a stapler not stapling or an aneurysm clip slipping out of position. The doctor mentioned in this obit cussed at anything and anyone. If a nurse was too slow in handing him the tie for his gown it was time to let her have it with both barrels. This was not a pleasant person.

Dr. X was a nationally recognized expert in coronary artery surgery. Those who knew him were stunned when he died of a cardiac arrest - a heart attack-  on July 2, 1989. He was stricken while exercising on a treadmill at his Lake Forrest home.
This cardiovascular surgeon was obsessed with deceasing heart disease risk factors. He was very thin and often counseled patients with a normal BMI of 20 or so to lose weight. When he wasn't in the OR he was engaged in aerobic exercise. This was perhaps the most ironic obituaries I have read. I guess the message here is that you cannot beat genetics or fate when it comes to death.

When a patient's family approached Dr. Slambow with accolades for his life saving abilities as a trauma surgeon he always had the same reply, "I just patched him up. Tonight was not his time to go and I did not really have much to do with that." Jack Kevorkian's patients are probably the only people who are really sure about when the time of death comes. For Old fools like me it's best to live one day at a time and savor the moment. You never know what's down the road.

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