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Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Chamber of Horrors

Many of you know that I am a medical doctor and have been since 1980. I currently do emergency medicine. I can relate to you from time to time some amusing, sobering, shocking, and at times, unbelievable stories from my experiences as a doctor.

My topic today is the John Gaston Hospital. The Gaston, also known as the "Gashouse", the "Pit", the "Chamber of Horrors" was built in 1936 by a combination of funds from the Gaston inheritance (Gaston was a Memphis entrepreneur), the city of Memphis, Shelby County, the public works administration, and Memphis City Hospital.

I don't know what John Gaston Hospital was like in 1936, but between 1976 and 1980 (my time in the Pit), the Gaston was where you landed if you were indigent and in need of medical attention.

Specifically, I want to talk about the 5th floor orthopedic ward. On the 6th floor was the psych ward and the jail ward (a topic for another post). I don't remember for sure what was on the 4th floor, general surgery I think.

In the Gaston, everything was a ward. The 5th floor was one huge ward that ran the length of the building. I don't remember how many beds were in the ward, but there were a bunch, probably 25 on each side of the ward with the feet of the beds facing each other. Male and female patients both inhabited the ward and were huddled into groups apart from each other and sometimes separated by curtains for "privacy". Many of the beds were surrounded by visitors, many of them crammed into the small spaces between the beds. Sometimes it was hard to tell where the visitors ended and the patients began.

The smell was a mixture of urine, feces, body odor, infected wounds, gangrene (there's nothing quite like the smell of rotting flesh in July), and cigarette smoke (oh, the patients were allowed to smoke in bed). The staff could smoke too. From the plain plaster 12 foot ceilings with peeling paint there were long single stems dangling down to a fixture which resembled 3 concentric rings with no more than a 40 watt light bulb in the center. At night, they turned most of them off for the "comfort of the patients" and gooseneck lamps scattered here and there provided any needed light. In the winter, the Gaston was hot; in the summer, the Gaston was hot. It was always hot in that place, kinda like hell I guess. We would sweat along with the patients, all day and night long, and the constant state of damp during a 24 hour shift would allow us to take the Gaston smell with us when we left.

Nighttime on the 5th floor was creepy. You could enter the 5th floor ward from either end. At night you'd go in to be greeted by the heat and the smell. Looking from one end to the other you could barely see the far wall through the haze of cigarette smoke and dim lighting. It looked somewhat like a dungeon, it did. Often your view would be partially obstructed by a maze of orthopedic devices and suspended limbs hanging in the haze from metal tubes twisting to and fro over the beds. The shadows cast on the ceiling and walls by the appliances and wiggling limbs was downright eerie. Your adventure to the ward was also frequently accented by moans and screams from some of the inhabitants (and probably some of the staff and maybe even a few of us). Some were screaming in post-op pain. Some were screaming in alcohol or drug withdrawal. Once in a while the old man in the center of the ward would be in a psychotic scream as he picked the perceived bugs from his body.

Some patients did better than others. The Gaston was full of patients with the last name of "Grandholm" (I actually have changed the name to protect the guilty and the innocent). Anyone with the last name of Grandholm always did poorly. We were warned in the beginning to beware of Grandholm's. In the beginning none of us believed it. In the end these people haunted all of us. On the 5th floor ward, a Grandholm would always be the one to get a wound infection. A Grandholm would be the one to develop gangrene and lose a limb. A Grandholm would be the one to pitch a pulmonary embolus in the middle of the night and suddenly die. The first person I ever saw crash and burn in the operating room during an "elective" surgery case was a, you guessed it, a Grandholm. We always hated it when we had a Grandholm on our service.

One thing I experienced at John Gaston was "snake rounds". Many of the post-op patients would get pneumonia. This was probably because most of them would lay there, day in and day out and smoke in bed. Nobody bothered to get the post-op folks up and walk them in the halls or do physical therapy with those who could not ambulate. Anyway, long before I came along, someone thought it would be of great therapeutic benefit to visit all smoking patients in the middle of the night and introduce a small suction catheter down one nostril and on down into their tracheas, suctioning out the secretions in the process. This was called "snaking" a patient, and it was done with regularity at the Gaston. I never saw this done anywhere else and in fact I never read anywhere in the literature that "snaking" patients reduced the incidence of post-op pneumonia. If you can relate to strangling on a chunk of food, imagine the sensation of someone jamming a tube down your windpipe while you're fully awake. I heard that one of my classmates got in trouble when she took it upon herself to "snake" some of the private surgery patients at the big Baptist Memorial hospital (also known as the big BM), across the street.

To be fair, we do "snake" patients today from time to time, but these are people in obvious respiratory distress, so full of secretions they cannot otherwise breathe. At the Gaston, "snaking" was done all the time as a "preventative" measure.

Strangely as we spent time at the Gaston, it became like home. We rotated to other places from time to time but always seemed glad to get back to the Pit. They did have some fairly nice quarters for the med students and house staff. The area was quiet, clean, void of smells, and had showers where we could wash away the Gaston smell.

After I left Memphis, they finally tore the old Gaston down and what remained was swallowed up by the Elvis Presley Trauma Center and the MED. I suppose that facility has provisions to take care of the huge indigent population of Memphis, perhaps in a manner somewhat more humane than that of John Gaston. On the other hand, perhaps the Gaston was the best thing that Memphis had at the time. I guess a lot who would have died probably lived because of the Gaston (I vividly remember several). Could more have lived if the Gaston had been better? Maybe, but I'll never know that for sure. I saw and experienced things at John Gaston that I never could have imagined before and have never seen or experienced since.



Friday, February 27, 2009

Sea Kitten Killer Part 1 followup

Just so nobody gets bruised feeling over the mass murder of Crappie Sea Kittens, be advised that Crappie are very prolific fish, especially in closed habitats like lakes and ponds. According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, without predators (bigger fish and sea kitten killers), the species would rapidly overpopulate and die.

Now don't you just feel better?

Musicians Are Crazy

Most of you know I am a musician on the side. I play bass guitar, a little keyboard, and sing a little on the side. Back in the 60's and early 70's were my serious playing times. We played rock-n-roll and country. In fact we played in some of the places on the "Walking Tall" movies. It is a wonder we didn't get killed, but heck, we were young, invincible, and we thought we would live forever.

I got married, went to college, got interested in marriage and career, and slowly but surely let the music slide.

About 4 years ago I started playing again, at first just for the hell of it and then I was jamming again. Sorry to say the last group I was working with split up a couple of weeks ago. Seems like people near my age cannot get together and play without having egos, personal issues, and this and that get in the way of the music. Needless to say I am somewhat frustrated, but the music will not die again.

I'm going next Wednesday night to jam with some dudes across the river. They play rock and country both. I'm not getting my hopes up, but you never know until you try.

Wish me luck...........

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Beware of the Sea Kitten Killer! Part 1

Hey! If yall really want a good laugh, go visit the PETA, Sea Kitten website. It's really hard for me to imagine that even these left wing whacko nut cases would actually beg for money to promote such a ridiculous cause. It's even harder to imagine that people would be sucked in to such rot. They are probably a lot of the same people that voted for Hussein Obama, but that's a story for another post.

Let me assure you that any comparison between a fish and a cat is a stretch beyond belief. About the only similarity is that they are animals and they are vertebrates (they have a backbone for all you Obama supporters). Beyond that, the similarity ends. The part of the brain that makes a cat a cat (the cerebral cortex) is more or less non-existent in a fish. The cerebral cortex is what thinks, feels, reasons, makes decisions, creates personality, etc. Sorry to say but fish have no intelligence or ability to think or feel. They are creatures of pure instinct, driven in their habitat by their search for food, their desire to regulate their body temperature and their desire to procreate. They are not warm and cuddly, they don't know you as their friends or masters.

Let me introduce you to two of the Sea Kitten Killer's victims:

Pomoxis annularis (white crappie)

Pomoxis nigromaculatus (black crappie)

Crappie, black and white, have overcome the racial divide suffered by humans. It is rumored that in prehistoric times, the black crappie were held as slaves by the white crappie, but this is purely a myth (makes about as much sense as sea kittens doesn't it?). They actually look pretty much alike to the untrained eye, and they occupy pretty much the same habitat although the blacks prefer slightly clearer water. During the spawn in the spring, coloring of these fish can be deceptive. Generally many of the females look rather fat and bland (engorged with eggs) while the males black and white present a brilliant array of colors, kinda like humans dress up for Mardi Gras or dress to play golf. If you're interested, white crappie have 6 and only 6 spines on their dorsal fin. A black crappie will have 7 or 8 spines. You have to pack a little extra heat down in the da hood, doncha know?

I'm sad to report that uncountable crappie sea kittens have fallen victim to the Sea Kitten Killer of Lost Creek! He is a relentless predator, caring not if his victims are black or white, young or old (only 10 inches long by state regulation). And what's really sad is he couldn't give a hoot in hell for PETA or anyone that belongs to it.

He uses a variety of horrifying and hideous weapons!

The devastating twirl tailed grub!

The horrifying beetle spins!

The getaway vehicle!

Oh the horror! Oh the slaughter!

The Sea Kitten Killer of Lost Creek will tell you that the lowly sea kitten crappie is arguably one of the finest eating fish in the world. With the precision of a surgeon and his trusty electric knife he peels the succulent flesh away from the kitten's backbones, the agonizing kitten screams drowned out by the droning of the electric motor, as he delivers the mild, tender boneless fillet!

Bwaaa Haa Haa! He boasts! I'm going to eat you up! Yum Yum! Eatum Up!

Ya know, I've heard these PETA freaks have actually protested at fishing tournaments, blocked boat ramps, etc. I don't think that has ever happened around here, but I betcha people around here wouldn't take kindly to such intrusion and some PETA freak might end up on the receiving end of someone's second amendment rights (see my previous post, Got Guns?). We do love our hunting and fishing in these parts.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Got Guns?

Dammit, I love guns. I just wanted all yall to know that I love guns. I carry guns. I think all yall should carry as well.

Why carry a gun?

1. It is my second amendment right to do so. I don't buy into all that liberal BS of the second amendment meaning a militia etc.

2. Shooting someone is a hell of a lot easier than whipping out your best karate move. 20 years ago the karate move might have been a lot more fun, but my joints just don't move nearly as well as they used to.

3. It just pisses liberals off when they think you carry. Anytime you can piss off a liberal, it is worth it.

Look at my guns. Here's my Ruger P-90 9mm. It's big, it's heavy, and hard to conceal. Good for home or truck but not to carry. But it would surely put a nice hole in you. You gotta remember if you have chambered the first round and you gotta remember to take the safety off if Osama is charging you.

Here are my/her Taurus ultralight titanium 38 specials. They only weigh 13oz unloaded and you can put them in your pocket or purse. In my humble opinion these are good carry weapons. They are light, they have a lot less kick than the 9mm, and being a revolver, you don't have to worry if there is a round in the chamber or if the safety is on. I imagine if I ever really had to shoot someone, I'd be shaking like a dog sh*tting peach seeds and would not want to have to remember those previously mentioned things. The 38 cal hollow points ought to stop most intruders.

Best of all, my sweet wifey and I have matching ultralight 38's. Mine is silver, hers is gold! Ain't that just precious?

Here are my 22's. The bolt action rifle (left) is one I have had since I was a kid. (Imagine that! I was a child and I had a gun!) The semi auto 22 (right) is a rifle my father had. It has a hand carved stock and is very pretty.

Finally my 22 pistol with the 4 inch barrel is a very nice and accurate weapon. 22's are actually pretty good guns to have around. The ammo is small and cheap. They kick very little and are quiet. 22 rounds or the threat of them will deter most terrorists and muggers.

The final weapon is the 12 gauge shotgun. This is probably the optimum weapon for home defense. When the terrorist is beating down your door it won't matter if you're nervous and can't take good aim. Just point the thing in the general direction and fire away. Chances are you'll get a piece of him. Even if you miss, the boom will likely scare the hell out of him.

Here's a picture of me shooting an AK-47. It's not mine, sigh!

I am a fisherman, not a hunter, but I sure love my guns. It's a good thing that sane and sensible people like me own guns! God Bless America and the 2nd Amendment!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Polar Bears Throwing Snowballs

Most of you probably don't know that I went to college at Peabody College in Nashville. Peabody is now part of Vanderbilt University. Sweet wifey (she is so sweet) and I lived in student housing on 18th Avenue South. Just a block or so away on Edgehill Avenue was a small house where out front they had 2 statues of polar bears throwing snowballs. Some people have lions, some people have gargoyles, but these people had polar bears throwing snowballs. I always thought this was kinda cool. In fact I kinda thought I might mention to sweet wifey that we get a couple of polar bears for our house...................nah, better not.

According to this LINK the owner of the statues eventually donated the polar bears to the city and now they have their own little place.

It's funny how we sometimes remember rather insignificant things. Although we did not have a pot to piss in nor a window to throw it out of, undergraduate college was one of the best times of my life. The only problem was that I did not realize it at the time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Don't Fight It

You know, it's disturbing when nature wakes you up during the night. You just hate it when your sleep is interrupted by that irresistible urge to pee. For a little while you lay there half awake and think, "If I ignore it, it will go away!" When you were younger sometimes you had a "woody" to go with it, but not so much of that anymore.

No such luck, in fact the urge grows stronger, and you really hate it when it happens about 30 minutes before alarm time.

No need to resist. With my trusty LED flashlight in hand, I stumble to the bathroom. I have learned at a younger age that there is absolutely no need to fumble around in the darkness jamming your toes into every piece of furniture between you and the toilet. The only cure for broken toes is tape.

Also, there is a small LED light mounted near the bowl. Sweet wifey (she's so sweet, kinda like Penny) has never liked it when I miss the bowl, although I think all women feel the same way. I think they're just jealous that they have to sit down. In spite of the LED I still miss the bowl sometimes. Once in a while it just never goes where you want it. In my defense I always put the seat back down.

My friend, Clarence, got divorced because he always left the seat up, but Clarence is a story for another post.

Ahhhhhhhhh! It's good to be empty again and I did not spill nary a drop.

In the winter time when it's cold outside, a nice pee in the middle of the night can be quite rewarding when I get to crawl back into the warm spot I left in the bed when I got up a few minutes ago. Ahhhhhhhhhh, nice and warm and quiet…….nitey poo.

By the way men, the older you get, the more often you get to enjoy the nighttime pee. Don't complain. If your prostate gland grows big enough, you might not be able to pee at all.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Welcome to my blog. This is a blog about me, my likes and dislikes. I'll make comments from time to time about my work, my politics, my hobbies, things I enjoy, things I hate, things that make me smile and things that make me sad, just whatever is on my mind.

I am a politically incorrect person. Politically I am mostly libertarian with a heavy right wing slant. Anything I post is strictly my opinion. I don't intend to justify anything that I post to any of you. I'm not gonna quote sources or research sources. If you want that then visit my sweet little wifey's blog, Right Truth.

If you have tender sensibilities and get your feelings hurt easily, then this is NOT the place for you. I make no apologies if I piss you off. We spend way too much time in this world worrying about who we might offend.

Having said that, I hope you enjoy some of my posts and antics.