fireworks display



I knew a surgeon once who had lost a child to a tragic accident. Whenever I spoke to him by phone, consulting him on a patient, he would close by saying, ‘hey, Ed, be careful out there, OK?’ I thought it was very kind. I didn’t know his backstory at first, but when I did I found his words even more touching. There was pain in what he said and hope that the pain wouldn’t be visited on anyone else.

So as New Year’s Eve approaches, I say to everyone, ‘be careful out there.’ I don’t only say it because I’ll be one of those working in the ER. I don’t only say it because I’d really like a quiet night (hear that Lord?). I say it because of what I know.

I say it because it’s cold outside, and hypothermia is deadly. In our generally comfortable modern life, we forget that nature has no interest in your well being, and cold kills. The homeless know that. Police, fire, EMS, linemen, highway workers, those who do hard work outside, they know it. Soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen who dwell in the elements, they know it. Many of us forget.

I say be careful because it’s dangerous. People drink and drive. They die and others die. People drug and drive. And people die. They go to their methadone clinics and drive away, swerving. ‘Mama falls asleep driving a lot,’ a child told one of my nurses once. Mama took methadone.

People drive on fentanyl and heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, Xanax and Ativan, hydrocodone and oxycontin. People drive on marijuana. They are all impaired. Be careful out there, because odds are, you’re passing them at some point.

Be careful out there because violence is up (and the violent are too easily released from jail out of a false kindness). There are people who do not care about your life. Like nature, like the water, the ice or snow, like gravity, your life is nothing to them. Trust your gut and avoid anything that looks dangerous. No fight is worth the danger if there’s an off ramp, a way to escape.

And as always, EMS is constantly busy and ambulances may be delayed when something happens. Be careful out there.

Hospitals are full and emergency departments are full and there are no beds. Serious illness and injury can be hard to treat; minor illness and injury may be require 12 hours just to be seen by a physician. Be careful out there.

If you’re working these times, like me? You be careful too. While celebrations will abound, and untold numbers will laugh, dance and party, many people can’t stay home tomorrow night. And if they’re working, their jobs cannot be done from the warmth and safety of an online connection.

Be careful. We need you and your family needs you.

Happy New Year to you all. I hope your night, and my night, is safe.



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