Wednesday, November 30, 2016


Dr. Grumpy: "Any major illnesses in your family?"

Mrs. Time: "No, actually a lot of longevity. My mother would have lived to 100, I mean, if she'd made it another 24 years."

Monday, November 28, 2016

Here we go!

As we near the end of another trip around the sun, it's again time for the annual...

Dr. Grumpy's Gift Guide!

I'm going to kick off this year with something truly meaningful. After all, in cultures around the world, motherhood is revered.

So what would be an ideal gift for your growing child to always remember mom by? Something meaningful, lasting, powerful...

I know! What could be more appropriate than jewelry made from your very own breast milk?

Featuring an array of bracelets, rings, and pendants, you can now remind your child, or yourself, or the guy who knocked you up, of all the sacrifices you made for them during your "nursing journey" (that's what the site calls breastfeeding, I swear).

Cookies not included.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Heading out for the holiday

Back on Monday!

Have a good one, and try not to get killed in a Walmart Friday morning at 2:45 a.m. in a fight over the last "Fondle Me Elmo" doll.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Weekend reading

Trapped by the dropping temperatures and unexpected snow this weekend, I got caught up on some medical reading. I thought I'd share some of it with you:

The driving abilities of patients with Alzheimer's Disease worsen as the disease progresses. In addition, people with Alzheimer's Disease were more likely to have trouble with driving and other complex tasks than age-matched controls without cognitive problems (Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, May 11, 2016).

Patients who suffered a massive stroke requiring neurosurgical decompression, and survived the whole thing, were more likely to be dependent on others for long-term care than those who didn't make it (New England Journal of Medicine, September 7, 2016).

Friday, November 18, 2016

Beware of the Dragon

Seen in a chart:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Tracy: "Hello?"

Annie: "Hi, this is Annie at Dr. Grumpy's office. I was trying to set up the MRI for you..."

Tracee: "What time should I be there?"

Annie: "Well, we were looking for old studies to do a comparison. They had a few past MRI's for someone with the same last name and birthday, but the first names were all slightly different."

Tracey: "Oh, they're all me."

Annie: "All you?"

Traysee: "Yeah, I like to spell it different whenever I feel like it."

Annie: "Okay..."

Tracie: "That way it's special."

Annie: "Indeed it is."

Monday, November 14, 2016


I was a neurology resident, doing a rotation at a large county hospital. Like most county hospitals, it served a predominantly indigent population.

I was in my 2nd year of residency, 3 years out from medical school and in my late 20's.

She was the same age. I'd been consulted because she couldn't afford her epilepsy medication and had a seizure. She was also pregnant with her 4th child. So she was in the OB ward of the county hospital.

I had a job, an apartment a few miles away, a 4-year-old car in the parking lot, and a girlfriend (now Mrs. Grumpy).

She was homeless. None of her kids had the same fathers. She bounced between different shelters and whichever guy would take her and her kids in for a few days.

I'd showered that morning. She and her kids smelled awful, and obviously hadn't bathed recently.

I was in a generic shirt, tie, and pants from Target, with the required white coat. She and her kids were in tattered clothes from a donation center.

As I talked to her, scribbling her history down on my note pad, I suddenly realized I knew her.

10 years earlier we'd been in the same year in high school. We took PE, economics, typing, social studies, and chemistry together. We weren't close friends, but knew each other and said "hi" in the halls and local stores when we crossed paths. I suddenly had a vivid memory of her running to third base when I hit a single in a softball game.

I didn't mention it, and if she recognized me she didn't say so. I don't think she did. Her chart was huge, and I was just another in an endless stream of residents she dealt with on her frequent admissions. I restarted her seizure med and folic acid and she was discharged later that day. I went to another rotation the next week and never saw her again.

To this day I think of her. We came from the same upper-middle class backgrounds. We went to high school in American suburbia. Her parents were as successful in their area as were mine. Not wealthy, but comfortable, with expectations for their kids of college and a job and self-sufficiency.

I wondered how she got there. In 10 years we'd landed in very different lives. Had she made bad choices? Drugs? Alcohol? Had she just encountered terrible shit luck that all of us dread happening to us? A marriage gone bad? Domestic violence? A financial catastrophe beyond her control? I remembered seeing her and her parents posing for a picture at graduation. Did they know where she'd landed?

Sometimes, while trying to sleep, I think of her sitting there. I wonder if she's still on the streets. If she got her shit together and was able to move out of poverty. If she's even still alive. I'll probably never know.

Maybe she did something stupid, the kind of thing where all of us living in comfort can say "that would never happen to me, I'd never do something like that." Or maybe the circumstances were entirely beyond her control, the kind of financial clusterfuck nightmare that all of us dread destroying everything we have and work for.

I'll never know the answer. But the encounter always reminds me how much of life can be terrifying random chance, no matter how much we'd like to believe otherwise.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Seen in a chart:

Monday, November 7, 2016

Saturday, 12:23 p.m.

Dr. Grumpy: "This is Dr. Grumpy, returning a page."

Mr. Sativa: "Hi, um, you saw me for headaches last year, and referred me to a headache specialist, and I kind of have an emergency, and I can't reach him."

Dr. Grumpy: "Okay... What's up?"

Mr. Sativa: "Well, that doctor suggested marijuana, and it works fine, but this morning my dog Mojo ate it all, and now he's really sleepy. I mean, he's breathing, but I can't wake him up. What should I do?"

Dr. Grumpy: "I'd call your vet. I don't treat dogs."

Mr. Sativa: "Oh, I hadn't thought of that."

Dr. Grumpy: "Okay, good luck and..."

Mr. Sativa: "With a stoned dog, um, should I play music or something?"


Dr. Grumpy: "I'd go with Dark Side of the Moon."

Mr. Sativa: "Cool! Thanks, doc. I'll call the vet now."

Friday, November 4, 2016


Trying to figure out why a lady was coming to see me, I called the other doctor's office and asked them to fax over the most recent chart note.

This is all I got:

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


"What should I call you for?"

This is a common question I get from nurses before I leave their station. They understandably want to know what things are important to me in a given patient's care. Exam changes, abnormal test results, medication problems, etc. I'm fine with answering them, too. It's part of treating someone.

In the early 90's I was an intern, covering the cardiology and general medicine floors. One evening I was meeting with the other interns at a nurses station, getting the nightly check-out. This consisted of them each handing me a crumpled sheet of paper listing patient summaries for me to refer to if called. The lists were folded into a big wad and crammed into my white coat pocket. As I stood up to go see someone in ER, a nurse came over and asked what I wanted to be called on. I absently mumbled "any concerning changes" and stepped into an elevator.

The night ticked on. Several admissions, some calls to discuss labs and medications, the usual smorgasbord of pages. Somewhere after midnight there was a break in the action, and I went to the call room to try and sleep.

I dozed for maybe an hour before the nurse I'd spoken to earlier paged me.

Intern Grumpy: "This is Dr. Grumpy, returning a page."

Nurse Smokey: "Hi, I'm calling you about Mr. Gomer, in room 564. Are you familiar with him?"

Intern Grumpy: "Hang on..." I switched on the light, grabbed the wad of papers out of my pocket (I still had my coat on) and began flipping through them for room 564.

Nurse Smokey: "No worries, I'll wait."

Intern Grumpy: "Okay, I have him. It says he was admitted for a heart attack 2 days ago, and is scheduled for an angiogram tomorrow."

Nurse Smokey: "Yes, but he has other issues. He also has a history of lung cancer, for which he had surgery and radiation 2 years ago. It recently recurred, and he's now on chemotherapy. There's also him having COPD from being a smoker, and last month he was here for a pulmonary embolism and is on heparin. He needs a left knee replacement, but that's on hold for now due to his other medical issues. Do you need a list of his medications and allergies?"

Intern Grumpy: "No, I have that here... What's going on with him that you're calling?"

Nurse Smokey: "He's on fire."

Intern Grumpy: "WHAT?!!!"

Nurse Smokey: "He's on fire. He's on oxygen, and apparently his wife snuck in some cigarettes and matches and..."

The phone fell to the floor. I ran out of the call room into the stairwell and dropped down 2 flights to the 5th floor. As I flew past the station, Nurse Smokey was still on the phone with my empty call room, calmly saying "Hello? Dr. Grumpy? Can you hear me?"

In room 564 I found Mr. Gomer, miraculously uninjured except for some minor burns and missing eyebrows. He was almost completely covered in ashes and fire extinguisher foam (which a terrified student nurse was still randomly spraying at anything that moved, including me). Another nurse was pulling off the charred oxygen mask and melted tubing, while a respiratory tech made sure all the oxygen valves to the room were closed.

This was a good reason to call the doctor, if not the fire department. Skipping his past medical history, under the circumstances, might have been a good idea, too.
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