Wait Time

She breathes quietly under the sterile sheet, her breath fogging the plastic window they have provided. Her neck is a pale blue from the chlorhexidine. The white line is prepped and my arms are folded, chin down in a wide-based waiting stance I learned in the OR as a student. I breathe, too, to avoid pacing to the door of the ICU room.

Outside the fellow is waiting for another consultant to call him back and see if we should place a central line for plasma exchange. He told me to place the line, let me prep, then decided that we should call them. Now we're waiting, silent. I think about small talk but she's under a sheet and it seems too odd.

It's already been an odd line; I tried a subclavian and missed, which is not unusual, but then felt a pulse under the collarbone, which is, and the monitor started alarming, saying 'v tach' which it says for anything it can't describe. It's a bit like a bad hunting dog that way. But I can't tell and the attempt doesn't feel right so I stop, confirm she didn't have a heart about to stop by talking to her, confirm she has that pulse under her collarbone on both sides, and decide to use ultrasound instead on her neck.

She's a mom with eight kids so she knows hospitals and she knows pain and she's stoic but I wonder what she's thinking. The plasma exchange is for her kidneys; kidneys that are stopping from accumulated bacterial toxin secreted into her from their hideout in her colon. Perhaps made worse by the antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medication she got at the outside hospital.

We wait some more. How stupid, this training system. How preposterous. I can't move until he says so. Six years of medical training and I'm a puppy on a leash to a supervising cricital care fellow who can't decide by himself if he wants to put in a central line or not. He also continued her antibiotics, which we shouldn't have done. And forgot to call nephrology that night. At least he didn't re-start her anti-diarrheal.

The reason not to treat and not to stop the diarrhea comes from the suicidal tendancies of the bacteria. As they die, they release all their toxin, worsening the problem. The diarrhea, as uncomfortable as it is, allows at least some of the toxin to escape.

It's partly my own fault. I'm off my home turf, in theICU, so I'm less likely to actually speak up, but often as a resident you have to choose--do I stick up for this or just shut up and pass on the bad decision? The reason for me to pass on the bad decision is, well, I might be wrong; but that's happening less, and now my thoughts are more likely to be at least substantiated somewhere. The other reason is that even if you are right, some of our teachers are set in their ways, and they may just continue anyway even if you're right. Then you just get yelled at for no benefit.

So I wait. ICUs have their own background music. Chimes, and bells. The alarm for a heart rhythm that will kill in minutes is the same as if a sticker monitoring the patient falls off, so to listen to these alerts is useless. Just let them lull you to sleep.

Finally the OK is given. The line is placed. Dark blood easily filling a syringe in the neck is gratifying, meaning I'm in the right place, not the oh-crap-pull-the-needle-out-and-hold-pressure-and-hope-she-doesn't-stroke-or-bleedout-place. Dressings placed, dated. Line confirmed. Checklists completed. Dressing off. Head of bed up. Now if only we didn't have people getting in our way, we could maybe get some work done.



I don't know what the role of hypoglycemia in resuscitation is; all I know for sure is that both patients I've taken care of with an initial FSG reading of 'lo' that had an associated cardiac arrest didn't survive, even if the problem was addressed. Ideas? Maybe there's something to candy, after all.

"Let grief be your sister, she will whether or not"

The paramedics call to base for support for a PNB, which is run-of-the-mill, two or three times a shift. Either they have brought the patient back, or they want to stop, or they want to keep going, and they need our OK.

They called from the middle of a basketball court, doing CPR in the center circle on the son, cousin, and uncle of the well-dressed audience, watching and holding each other. A twenty-year old who collapsed stone-cold dead between the second and third free throw, falling backwards.

Round three of the typical three is already done when they call, asking for transport, for continuation; reaching for the refuge of hope that drugs like bicarb and lidocaine after amiodarone represent, some extra tool to throw at death when you're not ready to give up yet.

Everyone there did everything right. The coach started CPR, the EMT basic delivered one shock before the paramedics got there, they placed a combitube rather than an ET tube and ran the show. IV was placed on arrival. By the time they called me, though, it had been almost thirty minutes. Move to the rig. Move to the rig, out of the gym, away from the people all around. I ask one or two times, are you comfortable going 1099. Negative, they say. The mom is with us in the rig. OK, then. Come to the hospital.

The team knows this is theatre, to some extent. That doesn't mean we try any less hard, or that our compressions are too shallow, or that we breathe at the wrong rate. It means as soon as he rolls in, CPR still going, sadness rises in place of hope.

At the head, I see his fixed and dilated pupils; the c-collar in place because he fell backwards and maybe it's trauma, I take off, because it's not trauma, it's a heart that got too big for itself. With the first pulse check the tube is placed and confirmed. We do three rounds of drugs, CPR all the time, switching every two minutes, stomach decompressed. I can see mom ten feet from the foot, being held, eyes fixed on her son that an hour ago was running up and down the court. Not prowling the street selling drugs, not driving drunk, not stabbed by some dude while minding his own business; not doing the things so many of our other visitors do.

Our staff gives the warning shot. I'm going to tell mom it's not going well, he says, and one more round.

The nurse keeps the alarms off. Only the sound of 100 a minute compressions and 10 a minute bag-valve-mask ventilation. It's a soft sound. Rhythmic. The sound of our best tool, our best way to keep someone alive in the short term. The sound of failure.

We stop. A door shuts for the others in the room and mom drops to the floor, wailing and gasping for air. We help her to a cot to support the weight she cannot support herself. She breathes underwater, eyes on nothing.

There is no question of why. I know why this happened, the story is the classic presentation of this. No, there's no 'why'. There's just the next patient, and a sensation over the back of the head as if a window were just opened on a winter's evening, as the stickers are taken off and our patient is covered with clean white blankets.


Holy Crap It's Been ForEVER

...since I last posted. Sorry!

I've been at ACEP and looking for jobs and generally trying to live life while also remodeling a flooded basement and just being a resident. Somehow that interferes with posting. I'll try to post the best nuggets from the conference as I go through all the syllabi.

A large, large man came in the second to last shift before I flew out with chest pain. He was a mountain. Chest pain, of course, is our most common complaint, so I went in to talk to him without thinking much about the differential.

Where do you have pain?

Right here, he says, indicating his ICD which is so new he has only a partially healed surgical scar over it.

Did something happen to it?

Well, yes, my girlfriend punched me in the implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), two times. Like, hard. And I think it went off and now it hurts.

Um, OK. I walk back out of the room and pull out the algorithm for people punched in the ICD by their girlfriend, which we have filed right behind the STEMI protocol. Interestingly, all pathways end with 'get a new girlfriend'. And, admit them to the hospital for an ICD interrogation and cardiac rule-out. You never know. Maybe he was having ischemia at the same time he got punched twice in the ICD. God I love my job. The hardest part was not laughing. I think I actually did. I think I might have also told him to get a new girlfriend, a vital part of my patient education.


A What Scratched You?

I officially have a new favorite chief complaint by ambulance. Mouse scratch.

Paged out as such, I didn't know what to expect but at 3 am I was ready for the worst...not really. I was ready for what I got.

There were tons of mice in my house, one ran over the covers or over the bed, I freaked out, and while I was scrubbing myself down with alcohol solution and soap my leg stung and I noticed this tiny l'il scratch about 5 cm long that barely broke the skin. Oh yeah, I'm wearing a finger splint with a sharp edge on it. But I was worried it was the mouse that got me and maybe I need rabies or tetanus.

Um, tetanus OK. Rabies no. More importantly, since it's three in the morning and you're the only to be seen, how many mice exactly?

Mice on the curtains, mice in the kitchen, in the closet, in the bedroom, kids screamin', can't do their homework, traps out catch ten at a time. OK, so, um, you don't really need me. You need some dude with bad chemicals that has to wear rubber gloves that'll fix your problem. Needing a tetanus shot is, well, the least of your very disturbing, disgusting worries.

Third world at home, folks. Third world at home. Instead of the taxpayers picking up the am-boo-lance ride, perhaps we should pay for the exterminator.

FYI, CDC tetanus recs: booster if more than five years from past tetanus booster. Immune globulin for those who have not received their normal immunizations, or who are unknown. So-called 'clean, minor wounds' can wait up to 10 years and should never get immune globulin, but I rarely see that happening.

CDC recs for rabies are more compliated. First, what animal. If a dog, cat, or ferret--i.e., pets--no treatment is needed unless the pet is thought to be rabid, so if you have the pet, you can watch it. If wild--i.e., scary furry critters like racoons, skunks, foxes, or, notably, bats--immunize as below. If livestock, call public health. Gerbils are probably OK.

Treatment is irrigation with povidone-iodine or the like, rabies immune globulin at the site of the wound AND at a distant site if you can't infiltrate all of it, in addition to the rabies vaccine at 0, 3, 7, 14, and 28 days, in the shoulder, not in the tummy like I was afraid of when I was a kid. Apparently according to another blogger this just changed with ACIP but not with CDC; perhaps we'll be able to skip the last dose.

photo credit




Finally, got a real night shift.

At one point, I was gowned up holding direct pressure on a spurting radial artery wound after some dude had punched his way through a window. My headset (yes, we wear headsets, and they're only slightly metrosexual) goes off asking me to come to the trauma bay to supervise an airway as we do for any trauma during our second year. I get someone to take over for me and walk down towards the bay, talking on the phone to hand surgery. I don't even know the name of the radial artery bleed, only the room, since I walked in on the heels of EMS. I re-gown for the airway, check the tube and end-tidal CO2, manage vent settings, and while I'm placing an OG tube the radiologist calls me, also on my headset, to tell me about a new cerebellar stroke found on the patient right next to the radial artery bleed.

Despite myself, I smile. This is EM. I realize deep down that it all makes sense. It was the right choice.

Also ran my first PNB over the EMS radio and tubed a drunk lady with a huge laceration of her posterior while wading through the headaches and abdominal pains and two decompensated cirrhotics.

picture credit, an interesting blog on communication found by an image search for 'multitasking'.


Why My Daughters Are Going to Have the HPV Vaccine Strongly Suggested To Them

A beautiful little cherub sits on the stretcher. Not as cute as my kids, of course, but close. She's reading to herself. Groomed. Haircut is stylish. She's a vision of Nordic charm. Then you ask her how she likes her book. 'Good', she says, 'it's called Who Rang the Doorbell'. Hmmm. Voice is all raspy and soft. I can barely hear her.

That's because she's had genital warts lasered or chopped off her larynx like sixty gajillion times (aka, once every four to six weeks for a year or two). How did she get them? Her mom had asymptomatic HPV at the time of her vaginal delivery that was either missed or tested for and not caught. Now this little girl has to come in and get put under general anesthesia all the time. Today she has re-growth that's 'not too bad' according to the ENT doc. The clusters of new HPV growth are only occluding about 30% of her tracheal opening after six weeks. You can't even see her vocal cords anymore. Her larynx is a tube of scar tissue and virus. There's enough bleeding and swelling after the treatments that she's been hypoxic a few times from acute obstruction, and of course, if she didn't have the surgeries the virus would just keep growing until it blocked her airway and she died.

Compare that to some local injection reactions from the vaccine. Damn those pharmaceutical companies coercing young women into getting a shot just for profit, and forcing their immoral opinions on our young women.

Set-Up For Success

Normally, intubating children produces angst because we're worried if we miss, but overall they tend to be straightforward as long as you do a few simple things. For young kids, you should have their ear at the level of their anterior shoulder, perhaps put a towel under their shoulder to compensate for their giant heeds, use a straight blade, look up, and you're home free.

So when the anesthesiologist brings in a wee laddie in a crib in traction, meaning their legs are up in the air, their chin is slouched into their chest, there's no way to approach them straight from above like we normally do, and then he says, "let's intubate him on the crib", and, "I normally don't use a paralytic", that's an awesome set up. Sterling. Perfect.

We ended up using a paralytic. Then I got it the second time. Gives me a lot of respect for paramedics intubating with less than ideal conditions, including in cars, in fields, and so on. However, when you have time, it seems silly to me not to use every advantage the first time, every time. Ironic, since usually the anesthesiologists call us cowboys, not the other way around.


Healthcare Reform

Sigh. I guess it's time to finally say something about this circus. About this distraction. About healthcare 'reform'.

The biggest thing I can say is that we're missing the point completely. The death panel debate is inane and shockingly uninformed and offensive, but it's really a shell game in front of closed-door deals that signal the true agenda of this bill and 'reform': window dressing for business as usual.

Obama, for all his rhetoric, looks to have sold the public down the river in order to mollify the big contributors, including for-profit hospitals, the insurance agency, and big pharma. How can I say this? Well, it seems obvious that he's agreed to limit contributions from the big players as covered by the NY Times and others. Now, conveniently the dialogue has shifted to co-ops instead of a public option; the 'death panel' idea has been dropped. The talk is about taxing health benefits, requiring people to buy insurance, and avoiding forcing drug companies into concessions on what they charge Medicare, all in the name of 'personal freedom'. These are all shifts away from what he said on the campaign trail, and away from meaningful reform.

The real show is going on behind closed doors. And if you're not outraged at that as a citizen you're missing the point. The big dogs are off making the real deal while we're busy yelling at each other like morons in 'town hall meetings'.

The real discussion needs to occur about the possibility of a single-payer, government run system. Unfortunately, with so much money and profit wrapped up in both politics and all aspects of media, it'll never happen. Does that help me as a doctor? Sort of. I'll keep making a higher salary, but I'll also be little more than a profit engine for corporations providing health care struggling to actually take care of patients. We'll still have uneven distribution of outcomes based on socioeconomic status, the CEOs of insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies and hospitals will still make enormous profits, and the president will get his speech. But, overall, very, very little will actually change except you'll be forced to buy crappy insurance.

What actually needs to happen is to get the monied interests out of the back conference rooms of the white house, and out of congress, and out of politics. When John Adams made his way to the continental congress before we were even a country, he had to do it for free, and he had to close down his law practice to do it. He did it because he loved his country, not for the bennies (which, for current congressmen and women, includes a great health care plan. Notice how they're not talking about giving that up). It's all about campaign finance reform and lobby reform, not health insurance.

Life-saving skills

Stuff that saves people is cool. We can all accept that. The things that really save people, though, are usually not what we expect. Helicopter transport, hypothermia with a cool machine that self-regulates, ICU care, monitors that beep and whistle, recombinant clotting factors that cost more than an SUV per ounce, those save people, right?

Um, maybe; but things that actually do are often eerily simple. Good chest compressions. Needles in the mid-clavicular line. And airway management--with a mask and a chin lift.

Terrifyingly recently, anesthesiologists would do a suprising number of cases without intubation and without a machine, just bagging the patient with an ambu bag. You breathe for the patient, literally.

On peds anesthesia this week, the best cases were the ear tubes, becuase for five minutes or so it'd just be me and the bag and the patient not breathing. This skill, as much as intubation, saves lives. Just a bag. No big fiber-optic scope, no fancy stainless steel LED-lit laryngoscope or, as my trauma surgeon called it, 'dog and pony show'.

It's all well and good to talk about lifting the jaw up into the mask with your pinkie, ring and middle finger spread from behind the jaw to the chin, but like any motor memory task, it takes time to learn it. Once you do, there's no feeling like holding the jaw up, squeezing the bag, and watching that little chest rise just enough to avoid inflating the stomach while still giving them oxygen. And to think we walk around normally breathing without even thinking about it. Want to manage a person's airway? Learn to bag. Don't know what to do with a failed airway? Learn to bag. Save a life.


FMOE: What do I do with this rhythm?

Gimme an M! Gimme an A! Gimme a G! What's that spell? That's right, the electrolyte that's also a code drug. Let's hear it for magnesium. 1 to 2 grams IV like, stat.

And for all the med students out there? Want an obscure cause of Torsdes? Try cardiac sarcoidosis. We had a woman with a strip like the above who we loaded with mag after a self-limited run who had just been diagnosed with sarcoidosis. The cardiac MRI was negative, unfortunately for science, but fortunately for her.

Rat Poison

He finishes dinner with his wife, the first they've had in weeks as he's recovered from hospitalization. Both feel better. Renewed. Maybe a bit hopeful. His balance isn't what it used to be, he's still tired, unsteady at times. Weaker than he was. She finishes the dishes while he, complaining of being tired, heads for bed upstairs.

On the third step, he remembers something and, naturally, turns to go back down. His balance, though. Not what it used to be. He falls the three steps, foreward into the foyer. And weak; doesn't catch himself. His nose bleeds. And bleeds. Bleeds even after she holds pressure and calls 911, bleeds to the hospital. Bleeds with anterior packing.

By the time he stops bleeding with a postieror pack, he's intubated; mental status, airway protection, and all that. Multiple facial fractures are found. He's admitted to the ICU for a hopefully swift recovery. Opacity at the base of his lung is watched; perhaps he breathed blood. Hard to say.

By day 3 or 4, it's not hard to say. The lung fills in, the tube stays after the packing does. He spikes fevers. He doesn't wake up. Now 4 to 5 days without nutrition, fractured, infected, a tired body, issues layering on each other.

His wife knows that he wouldn't want all of this. Wouldn't want the tracheostomy, the feeding tube, the supportive care to see if he comes out of it. That's were we were. Stuck. Or, not stuck, because the family was sure of his wishes, and all of them agreed.

The Navy man who drove the boats for the landing on Guadalcanal had care withdrawn on the 4th of July. How terrible, you may opine. How macabre. But. The monitors were shut off. The tubes removed. His sons and daughter were there. His wife was there. They held his yellowed, bruised cool hands. Draped in a home blanket. They spoke to him, and we shut the door and the curtains, watching the monitor still on outside slow, and become more and more shallow until they stopped.

This is the situation the supposed 'death panels' were for. It was as good a death as we could offer for a good man. No bureaucrat showed up and told us we had to let grandpa die, nor would they if we had kept the 'death panels'. The family happened to know what he wanted, and because of that, we could let him go. What if they had been gone? What if they had disagreed? Weeks and months could pass, hooked up to machines and tubes, sustained, exactly as he didn't want to be maintained.

It's terrible when anyone dies. It's worse when they are treated with guesses as to their wishes. No one deserves guesses like that. The family is often asked to 'guess' what they might have wanted. Imagine, having to feel as though your decision will either end the person's life or lead to a full code and then the end of their life, not knowing if they wanted to leave quietly, or fighting to the last.



The concept of burnout isn't new; the pre-game is brownout, and it feels like it sounds. There's no crack, no explosion, no drama. Just a slow fade. The exams of patients get a bit shorter, the reliance on data higher because it's emotionally easier to look at a scan or a lab. The morning is harder.

Empathy starts to slip and is replaced by pity and sarcasm. Families aren't comforted or updated as often. It's not terminal. Your work doesn't slip to poor, just from excellent to good, or good enough.

Time to leave the ICU. Time to leave the one long hallway lined with an ever-changing but remarkably similar parade of random victims, the drug dealer next to the teenage model UN attendee struck by the drunk driver. Time to leave the purring ventilators and whispering pumps and step into the sunlight. Three days. Thirty-six hours, give or take. Not that I'm counting.

I am not who I was.


Strike One

Sorry to all for the long layoff. It's been unavoidable on the ICU, which has been a 'rich' learning environment to say the least.

We had a summer weekend night at the beginning of the month not too far outside the normal with fifteen or so traumas that came in, one of whom was a three hundered pound diabetic with hip fractures and rib fractures and a blood sugar of 850. She got blood in the truama bay because she was tachycardic and no pne could feel her pulses; after the resuscitation, she went to thr OR for an open femur. I was at the head of the bed in case there was an airway issue. In retrospect, it's hard to see the detail we could've caught to avoid amputating her leg three days later.

In the ICU, she kept failing to meet her resuscitation goals; too acidotic, not enough urine output, poor perfusion and cold extremities all around, remained intubated. She made all of us uneasy but we didn't quite know why, and we scratched our heads every morning and every afternoon and tinkered with her drips and fluids.

She gradually accrued orthopedic splints and rods sticking out of her leg and pelvis and arterial lines and venous lines and tubes, and on the morning of the third day the nurse said hey her foot looks dusky and it's really cold. The attending looked at it and agreed; she was going to the OR again and we told the ortho docs that the nureses were worried about her foot and that she had no pulse we could find but didn't call vascular specifically.

She came back four or five hours later and they said, you should call vascular, we can't find a pulse. By the time vascular came her foot had been cold for eight or nine hours and they, shocker, said nothing to do. An angio showed loss of the popliteal artery, which supplies the whole lower leg, just above the knee.

The amputation rate for injuries like this eight or more hours out is 86%. Even within six, the rate is about 20% if there is a femur injury. After we found out I remember sitting on the toilet in the room becuase it was the only place to sit and looking at her now purple toes sticking out of the splint. That may have been why she kept missing her goals all along. The reasons to miss the injury were legion, yet sitting there staring at her dead toes they all sounded like excuses.

That's the other part of the whole cost debate. Becuase of those purple toes I'll be more likely to order angios for the rest of my life, but not to somehow line my own pockets and not to avoid lawsuits. To avoid purple toes.



In the midst of the busiest call night in memory, I stand for twenty minutes, still, and watch the end of a baseball game.

I hold pressure to the wound that has soaked the bedsheet and is drying from the outside in. It soaked his shirt before he arrived. My hand protests and numbs after I wedge my elbow against the bed.

I have stacks of consults to finish. The pagers hum, heedless of each other, while I hold pressure, unable to answer. Traumas are stacked in rooms to go upstairs. Ribs, open legs, head injuries. Splintered livers. The detritus of a sticky summer night. Scanned, diagnosed, improved, ready to move.

I try to switch hands but position dictates my left is better, so I switch back. The chief had held pressure before me but she was too busy. Go get someone to do this, she said. This is what he needs. He needs a human being to hold pressure for thirty minutes.

Thirty minutes. From 9:25 to 9:55 PM on a weekend night in June, after the summer heat has arrived.

I ask for the med student first. He is too busy learning, I am told. My own staff tells me this, an attending who has taught me how to read EKGs, how to diagnose vertigo. My own staff who should be on my side except this month I am an interloper, I am a surgeon, I am an other, a 'consultant'. Get a tech.

I go and talk to the charge nurse, perhaps even more important than the staff physician. She is washing a bed. I do not take that as a good omen. I need help, I say. Someone needs to hold pressure on this poor man's wound, and right now the overnight chief of trauma surgery, the grand poobah of weekend nights, is holding pressure. She laughs a short laugh. We have no help, she says. They are too busy. She does not recognize my so-called authority. I am but a mendicant.

I return. I will hold it, I say to the chief. Perhaps you would like to argue our cause. She leaves, the curtain rustles. The nurse, who is giving an IV medication over the course of ten minutes, cannot leave her post, either. We are together. The patient is silent. He watches the game.

The bleeding stops. The bandage is taped. The patient is treated. Anyone could have held it there. The choice of who holds the gauze, though. That is how I know where power lies, and where it does not.

And what was gained? The patient was treated. A task was completed that the charge nurse, the staff doctor, the chief of surgery, and the medical student did not want to complete. Will this matter, I wonder. Will it matter that I did that task rather than order someone to do so? I could have, with my authority, so-called. But authority and power are not the same.

Photo Credit


A New Era

This is the first post from a phone I've ever written, and that sure is amazing if you think about it. Of course, the fact that I think it's amazing rather than normal tells you what a dinosaur I really am. Pretty soon my phone will intubate my patients and place central lines while it brews my coffee. Perhaps now I will actually be able to post again, busy as we are on truma. Sorry to all for the layoff.

We sent a lady wothy of buckeye surgeon, another blogger on the sidebar, to the OR today for a small bowel obstruction, and now I get what the surgical emegency is all about. Her belly was like a drum. Fourteen prior surgeries. Tiny little lady with a buddha belly, criss-crossed with scars that she clutched with both hands, fluid pouring out of her NG tube. She would surely be vomiting up a storm without it. I guess those surgeon-type people do some good after all.



Here's a knee-slapper. What if the very Harley that you rode to traumatic brain injury land without a helmet also technically kept you from qualifying for federal insurance to pay for the nursing home you needed? What if it made you 'over assets' because it was so nice on paper, but really was a twisted heap of metal that no one had officially listed as totaled yet?



Trauma Time

Photo Credit

Last day of cardiology call; starting trauma surgery tomorrow.

An article about South Africa's hosting of the 2010 World Cup made me think about the context of penetrating trauma. Johannesberg in particular is an infamous center for trauma research, and one of the most dangerous places in the world, prompting all the concerns about tourists visiting.

Looking around, it certainly seems that the risk of getting shot or stabbed is, ahem, not quite equal. The rates where I train are in the neighborhood of 20 per 100,000 or so, putting us outside the top 25 most dangerous cities in the US in favor of places like Detroit and Compton; on a country averaged rate, though, it puts us between Puerto Rico and Kasakhstan, which is not great. With a stated death rate from intentional trauma of 20, we get more than a gunshot wound a day on average (they do tend to come in groups).

Of course, it gets worse; South Africa has a rate of 38 per 100,000, as high as almost 50 in the last decade. Iraq wins--or loses, whichever. But that's an active war zone; the one that makes me wonder in this list is Jamaica, which people run off to all the time. Imagine if Apple tourism started selling getaway packages to Iraq.

These statistics face the same problems as any public health measure. Any country with a functioning public health system will do a better job of tracking statistics, and the statistics in Sierra Leone or Somalia are likely not quite reliable, whereas ours should be quite reliable. I'm guessing the rates in countries like Somalia, Angola, or Colombia are unreliable to say the least. I'm not sure how a country with no infrastructure deals with such a trauma load, except as depicted in the pictures linked above from Somalia.

According to the Boston Globe article with the photo above, Somalia has lost 17,000 civilians to trauma in the last 2.5 years, or 6,800 a year; if the population is counted right, that's a death rate of 680 a year from penetrating trauma. 680! Makes that picture above seem a bit more poignant. Makes me think I'll take trauma more seriously. Makes me happy I'm not in Somalia. Makes me just overall confused about the state of the world and what we're missing on a daily basis if we don't go looking for it. Imagine the apocolypse we would be filling our airwaves with if our penetrating trauma death rate was thirty times greater than it is now. And yet, it's happening. Just not here.