Happy Fourth of July! My family and I have been doing the normal stuff today; hot dogs and swimming. And the stuff that constitutes normality to us: playing ‘Call of Duty 3’ on the X-Box, fighting with bamboo swords, playing chess and checkers, reading a novel, eating some more and reading the Declaration of Independence. Whew, I’m tired already!
But I’m about to grab a little nap. Because my wife and children have gone to visit family for a couple of hours and are planning to watch fireworks. And I’m working nights.

Can you taste the excitement? I can. It tastes like gun-powder, cheap beer, stale barbecue chips and cocoa-butter sunblock. Ah! Fourth of July! The possibilities are endless. What will it be tonight? My ‘spider-sense’ is all a-twitter. Will it be a drunken knife-fight? Will it be a drunken car-wreck? Drunken overdose, drunken depression, drunken spouse abuse? Will it be a drunken episode of drunkenness?

It’s hard to say. Of course, tonight’s festivities should include at least one or two injuries from fireworks. Nothing like a Roman Candle fight to bring you to the ER. A few years ago, one of my patients blew away a piece of his forearm with what he called a ‘home-made firecracker.’ The police, unfortunately, called it a ‘pipe-bomb!’ Hey, I guess the fun of a powerful explosive is worth a little bit of skin, muscle, nerve and blood-vessel.

I didn’t work yesterday, and I don’t work tomorrow. These isolated nights embolden me. On nights like this, I hear my ancestors, skin and leather wearing Celts, Gauls and Saxons, waving their axes in the face of Rome’s legions. (They’re saying, ‘don’t be stupid, it didn’t work out for us!’). Nights like this, lone nights, make me want to stand outside the ER and scream to the steamy, pit-smoked night sky, ‘Do your worst, previous and future patients! I’m not afraid of you! Dr. Leap is on the wall tonight, so bring it on! Bring me your cut-off jeans, your flip-flops, your Pit Bull bites! Bring me your ball-bat injuries, roll-over car wrecks and anaphylaxis from pouring gasoline on the nest of hornets to which you’re allergic! Bring me your years of dysuria, pet rattlesnake bites, your discharges of all sort! Bring me your spider-bites, MRSA abscesses, puncture wounds and blistered, tanning-bed induced burns! Make some improvised munitions! Throw catfish at each other! Try to parachute off of the house with a bed-sheet! I’m here for nine hours, and I want to see what you can do!’

Great. Now I can’t sleep. I’m too jazzed. I’m excited to see what the night brings. Wherever you are, I hope it brings you a good night. And in all seriousness, an uneventful one. God keep us all as we do our jobs in the watches of the night.

And may you realize, despite the medical madness of this day and night, that we in America’s emergency departments are quite literally the body-guards of the citizens of the greatest nation in history.

Let me quote for you from the Declaration: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’

We would have quieter shifts if our government oppressed and suppressed our crazy, drunk brothers and sisters. But the liberty and free-will go hand-in-hand; and we physicians, nurses and paramedics are here to see that our citizens, in their free will, can survive as long as possible, as free as possible in order to chase their own dreams of happiness; not to guarantee them delight, but to allow them the chance.

So as you suture and argue, restrain and resuscitate, remember that you are, indeed, on the wall, keeping America an amazing nation. No matter how exhausting or infuriating it may be, you are the heirs of a great liberty and protectors of the country that may be the last hope of freedom on earth.
I’m proud of you! Now, off to nap. I wonder what’s brewing on the lake, right now?

Patriotically yours,

Edwin

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