28
Dec 18

Short men don’t slouch.

Every single height-challenged male carries himself as erect as he is able, straining to exert every last millimeter of vertical presence.  It’s a verifiable truth - just look around.

Short guys always yearn to be bigger.  Consider, as very public example, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.  By adding five inches to his pint-sized frame with platform shoes and another five inches by combing his hair straight up he stretches at full extension to five feet and seven inches of dictatorial pomposity.

And while most don’t go to the “lengths” of Kim Jong-Un to increase their physical presence, some diminutive males attempt to compensate for their size via out-sized impacts of a different sort.  Take, for instance, Ross “I’m all ears” Perot, dollars-per-inch the richest human alive.  Not content with proving his “big-ness” with massive financial success, the five-foot five-inch American took a bold run in 1992 at becoming President of the United States.  He fell, ahem, short, but took enough support from George H.W. Bush to hand Bill Clinton the presidency with only 43% of the vote.  (It’s a lesson that Canada’s Maxime Bernier, of commendable physical span but alarmingly short on political sense, seems determined to re-learn.) Read the rest of this entry »

20
Dec 18

* names and some details of clinical cases changed to protect privacy

Act One

 A Crisis of Identity

The number leapt out at me.  One hundred and three!

An incandescent flash of comprehension flooded my brain.

It was fourteen years ago.  I was standing beside the trauma bay bed, holding one of Jack’s tiny clenched fists in my hand as I gazed at his contorted face, his tongue thrusting rhythmically and his eyes rolled insistently upward.

His spasming body was submerged in a beehive of activity.  Medical personnel supplied critically needed oxygen, readied resuscitation equipment, and delivered intravenous medications and fluids.

Paramedics had crashed through the doors ten minutes earlier, wheeling Jack on a stretcher.  It had been a sleepy Monday morning in the ED to that point, the mundane chit-chat of nursing staff disturbed only by the raspy breathing and occasional seal-bark cough of a young boy with croup.  After dosing the young lad with dexamethasone and settling a misty mask of epinephrine over his face to ease his breathing, I sat in the doctors’ cubicle with my resident, killing time by quizzing her on the case we had just seen. Read the rest of this entry »

15
Dec 18

I was crushed.

“No can do”, said the ethics review board, mustering all of its collective wisdom.

Project cancelled.

Months of work down the tubes.  Long hours burning the midnight oil, precious time carved from what little remained outside of my clinical duties as a trainee in emergency medicine - time spent assembling the countless pieces crucial to a successful research project, combing through hundreds of journals for data to support its premise, devising recruitment and randomization strategies, tweaking study design, and most painfully, stuffing myself through a crash course on statistical analysis.

Some folks take to “stats” as if to the manner born, soaking in the language of data analysis like parched cacti greedily sucking in water.  I’m not one of those people. I was caught one morning, during a mandatory meeting to discuss research protocol design, between two colleagues endlessly debating the relative merits of the chi-square test versus Fisher’s Exact Test. It was excruciating, like being trapped in a migraine sandwich. Read the rest of this entry »

12
Dec 18

The Birds and the D’s

If ignorance was bliss, my fellow humans, we’d be permanent residents of Nirvana.

Because we will always be ignorant.

The Age of Enlightenment upended that dreary calculus, seemingly, by highlighting mankind’s powers of reason, transforming the intellectual and philosophical landscape of 18th century Europe and ushering in unprecedented discovery and inquiry.  “Sapere aude!” proclaimed Immanuel Kant, summing up the exuberance of that era: “Dare to be wise!”  Or, more loosely, "Dare to think for yourself!"

And on that foundation of reason we’ve built a towering edifice of science and knowledge - towering, that is, compared with what was known before.  As I’ve written elsewhere, every era finds us basking in an age of unprecedented enlightenment – until the rear-view mirror of history exposes it as an age of slightly less ignorance.  We scale mountains of knowledge and swim oceans of discovery - only to find mountains more magnificent to tackle and oceans more vast to explore. Read the rest of this entry »

4
Dec 18

The Birds and the Bees

Imagine, for a white-knuckled moment: you are hunkered down on a battlefield, commanding officer to a platoon of shell-shocked soldiers.  Ahead of you lies an open stretch of scrubby terrain peppered with concealed land mines, beyond that the safety of a sheltering bunker; behind you, hard on your heels, a swarm of enemy soldiers.  You have no choice but to go forward, to lead your squadron across that booby-trapped pasture, desperately hoping that your troops aren’t exploded to splatters and tatters of blood and gore.

But at the last second, as you’re about to order that gut-wrenching dash for refuge, you find in your rucksack a detailed map of those landmines.  Drenched with sweaty relief, you and your platoon pick your way quickly and safely across to that bunker. Read the rest of this entry »