Saturday, October 17, 2009

Life's a Bitch, and Then You Die

I'm on call this weekend, but am going to bitch about something unrelated.

A friend died last week. Not a close friend, or even someone I'd talked to recently. We did residency together, and practiced in the same city. But as time and geography do, we hadn't been in contact for a while. Not that we ever had a falling out, as much as we had our own lives. Occasionally we ran into each other at various places, and it was always good to see him.

He died of shit luck. That's all. And he was in his early 40's, a year younger than me. When a young person dies we always hope they did drugs. Or committed suicide. Or some risky behavior we can blame it on so we can say, "Geez, I don't do that sort of thing, so it won't happen to me". Not here. Just shit luck that can't really be prevented.

In residency we had all kinds of odd adventures, besides the usual war stories of medical training. Like when our hospital paid for the residents to go to a Neurology Academy meeting in Seattle. A bunch of us played hookie, and used our department stipends to go barhopping. Since we had no money for cabs, we were limited to bars in walking distance from our cheap motel. And they were all gaybars. So we wandered in and out of 10-15 gaybars over the course of the day.

All the geeks in neurology residency (let's face it, that was all of us) would watch Babylon 5 together once a week, and he and I would argue about it for the next week.

When I was trying to decide if I should ask Mrs. Grumpy to marry me, he gave me some advice that helped push me in what's turned out to be the right direction.

And it just sucks. Like me, he busted his ass through a combined 14 years of college, med school, residency, and fellowship. Then building a solo practice from scratch. And now he leaves behind a wife and 4 kids (younger than mine, too).

Anyway, don't mean today to be a downer, and I'm not looking for sympathy. Just venting.

But since this is a humor blog, I'll end it with a memory of him.

He was known for being gruff, and didn't really give a shit about what people thought of him or who he offended.

There was a day in the late 90's, when a drug rep had brought lunch to the practice we'd both started out in. She was obnoxious beyond belief. She would not shut up. And at the end of each sentence she'd ask "With this information, is there anything else I can do to help improve your patient care?"

We were trapped. And being new physicians, I was afraid that if we walked out we'd get in trouble, as her company was sponsoring some research at our institution. Gruff wasn't as concerned with this as I was.

So at one point in her sales monologue from hell, I passed him a note that said "We're trapped and will die here". He passed it back, and had written "I'll take care of it".

A second later she asked her standard "With this information, is there anything else I can do to help improve your patient care?"

And Gruff said, "Yeah! Show us your tits!"

She froze in horror, and in that second we both bolted.

We didn't get in trouble. Better yet, we never saw her again, either.

Goodnight, Dr. Gruff.


Chrysalis said...

He'd probably laugh at remembering that one. Best to remember the funny moments.

The best funeral I ever attended was one where they told the funny stories that were so much a part of who that person was. It was great!

Instead of the minister getting everyone in tears, we found ourselves nodding our heads and laughing at the outrageous moments we have as human beings. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend.

Unknown said...

Sounds like the line "Tits or GTFO" worked in that case.

Kathy said...

Sorry about your friend, but great story. Glad he had the guts to say what countless people before him only wished they could.

f8hasit said...

Sorry for the death of your friend. Great story!
I today just returned from a funeral. My friends mother passed, but she'd been I'll and in her eighties. On the way home I learned my cousin just died. 2weeks ago he went to see a doctor complaining of severe back pain. They confirmed cancer and gave him 1-2 months to live.
Jackie was 52.

Shall we all toast those that are gone, and toast to us that are fortunate to still be here.

Gert said...

That is a truly wonderful testament to him....I laughed out loud!

My heart goes out to you. Things like that aren't supposed to happen to "us", they're supposed to happen to "somebody else". We all know we're all going to die one day, the problem is that we really don't believe it. It took me 5 years as a hospice nurse to really understand that. I know I don't really believe it for me and my loved ones, either.

quixote said...

I'm sorry to hear about your loss.

This comment is just about the tangential issue of the "joke." Sorry, but it's a fail.

He could have said, "Yeah, you could stop taking up valuable time we require for other purposes." He could have said, "Sure you can do more to help. When you start from zero, you can always do more." He could have said any number of blunt things addressing the issue.

Addressing her tits is just harassment. And it's harassment of a kind women get so much, that I'll bet it never gave her an inkling she was being a twit.

Vegan Epicurean said...

Sorry for the loss of your friend. I had a 1 year period in my early 40's when 4 of my friends that worked at the same hospital died of different types of cancer. It is unnerving when people our age or younger expire before they should.

Your friend sounds like he was a lot of fun. Great story about chasing out the drug rep. You must have a lot of wonderful memories of your time with him.

Anonymous said...

Dr G
so sorry about your friend.

Kim said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your friend's passing Doc. I'll keep his family in my thoughts.

Jedi Meg said...

So sorry to hear of your loss.

B5 is awesome! My husband and I have the whole series and are working on season 5 at the moment.

Anonymous said...

"science marches on department" here. I helped train Dr Grumpy when he was a resident; I also helped train Dr "Gruff." I didn't know him well, and I'm not sure if I liked him, but I respected him. Grumps, your appreciation is exactly how he would want to be remembered.
"Praise is a debt we owe unto the virtues of others, and due unto our own from all whom malice hath not made mutes or envy struck dumb."Thomas Browne (physician, 1600's)

Goodbye, Gruff.

Phillipia said...

Sorry for your loss, Dr. Grumpy.

But thanks for the humor - I agree that it is best to remember the good times.

Maha said...

So sorry Dr. G.

ER's Mom said...

Sorry. Sounds like the type of guy I woulda liked.

Chris said...

Man, sorry to hear that. Great story though.

Anonymous said...

Hi, sorry about your friend's passing.

I'm a pharmacist practicing in Singapore. I'm married to a GP. I attended a funeral of my husband's medical school classmate a few month's back. The guy was 34 and left behind a baby boy barely 3. He was diagnosed with terminal stomach CA when he was scoped by his colleague for persistent GI complains.

It is exactly when death strikes the unlikely ones that reminds us of our fragility... Anyway, I'm sure that Gruff would be delighted that he was remembered in this manner... I know I would... :))


modesty press said...

Although my family heritage is Eastern European Jewish, my cousin Joanna decided to learn Chinese. She moved to Taiwan, became fluent in Chinese, married a Taiwanese businessman, and co-founded Graco, a leading manufacturer of children's furniture and furnishings.

Her daughter, born nearly deaf, was the first Taiwanese child to have a cochlear implant. Joanna enjoyed her millions, but she also used some of them to set up a foundation so any child in Taiwan born with hearing problems gets free treatment.

She was intelligent, pleasant, hard driving business woman who enjoyed her wealth and contributed to her adopted country. She died of breast cancer in her fifties.

It sucked.

Susan said...

Carpe Diem!!

DreamingTree said...

Shit luck deaths really do suck. A good friend of mine died about 15 years ago. He had gone to grad school with my husband. Ended up living in the same town years after grad school -- just dumb luck. His son was born around the same time as our daughter. Healthy guy -- ran, never smoked, ate well -- you name it. Died of cancer. Shit luck.

Coincidentally, he had a similar personality to your friend. Couldn't care less about who he offended, but often got away with saying whatever he thought. These are the types we expect to pull through anything. Really makes you question your own mortality.

Your story is fitting. It's real to who he was.

Unknown said...

Thats a bummer Dr. G. Nice eulogy though. ;)

J-Quell'n said...

Sorry about your friend, Dr. Grumpy...he sounds like an awesome person.

I'm with you on the whole hoping that young people die from drugs or suicide or something completely preventable...I thought only us neurotic people thought like that...nice to see that the good doctor has those thoughts too.

Be well.

wellillbe said...

My Dad died at 61 from cancer. I will always remember his funeral. ALthough we were still crying we were also laughing in between the sobbs. The stories that were told will live on forever...

Anonymous said...

Oh course he didn't get in trouble. Sexually humiliating a woman because a man feels like it is never punished. besides, she *deserved* it. You know, for having tits.

Silly bitch, doing her job.

Lipstick said...

I'm so sorry Dr. Grumpy. Great post about Dr. Gruff. Totally LMAO about the tits part. Would have laughed even harder if I was sitting there in person when he said it.

Mari-Ann said...

It was a FABULOUS story. I'm always kind of amazed at the people who take the opportunity to throw in buzz kill comments...why are they reading a humor site anyway? They obviously have none.

webhill said...

That's a great story. It's great that you have those memories of your friend, and that he'll live on in that way.

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