Saturday, April 2, 2011

What If.....?

  The stench was awful. Having been a part of over 50 autopsies you would think the smell of death would be minimized by olfactory fatigue. Not this time. The patient had died of cancer that had metastasized in the colon. That is why the smell was so bad. There is a huge difference between healthy cells and cancerous cells, obviously, but this cancer that had devoured the large intestine smelled like nothing I had ever smelled before. This was not my first autopsy on a cancer patient. This was, however, the worst autopsy I had ever witnessed. The standard Y incision was made and the skin was pulled up covering the patients head. After gaining access to the abdomen by cutting bone all of the organs were there to be examined, one by one. The heart showed its age by the inflammation of the heart muscle and the sac that surrounds the heart. Some of the coronary vessels were incised to check on how much lipids had developed. They were not in good shape, at all. It was not the cause of death, though. We knew the COD by reading the physicians progress notes. It really is amazing he lived as long as he did. There is no way that I will make it to 90, much less 94. I am sure the high cholesterol will knock off a few years, with the smoking taking several more. Henry, my pathologist friend, and I are among the minority of doctors that smoke cigarettes. That's almost like an alcoholic that drives a taxi for his job. Does not make much sense. We started smoking when we were young and in the Air Force. We did it to get out of formation for a smoke break while those that did not smoke had to stand in formation. It is a nasty habit that we cannot break. Henry had called me at the ER to see if I could help him out a little. We were slow, so, I helped him out. We were on the last patient and had just finished weighing the organs about to take a look at the brain to see if any cancer had spread to there. I pulled the flap down to stitch in place when I looked at the patient for the first time. I knew this guy. I asked Henry what the patients name was and he said "DeBarge, Renold L." He then looked up at me with that quizzical look and I said, " We know this man. He was a patient of ours at Eglin. Do you remember his cancer going into remission?" I saw that sparkle in his eye when he answered, " Yea, I remember him. He would not let anyone but you work on him. Didn't you..." "Yes, I told you about him. He tried his best to get me to give him something that would overdose him." Henry was the only person that knew about that. " Damn, just think what would have happened if you had done it." We both looked at each other and Henry finally said, " Let's skip the brain and go get a beer at Hooters." I grinned, " Fine by me."            theblogmeister

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