Concerned Family


A patient in her early 70’s was brought in by ambulance for difficulty breathing. She had been a smoker all of her life and her lungs were clearly wearing out on her.

After the patient arrived, a daughter teetered up to the registration desk and asked if she could see her mother. The smell of whiskey on her breath was unmistakable. The daughter went back to the room and sat with her mother for a little while as the smell of Jim Beam wafted through the air. We informed her that things with her mother weren’t looking good.

As the respiratory therapist tried to work his magic, the patient’s daughter got up and teetered back out of the room.

The respiratory therapist’s “healing vapors” had no effect. None of our efforts were improving the patient’s condition, so we went out to the waiting room to tell the family that the patient was getting worse and to ask them about the patient’s wishes for being on a ventilator.

No family members were in the waiting room.
The family was paged overhead in the hospital. No answer.
An aide went to the cafeteria. Not there.
We called the daughter’s cell phone number. Disconnected.
Security went outside to see if they were smoking. Ah HA! They weren’t standing across the street smoking like most of the other hospital visitors (and many patients) do. Instead, the daughter, another woman, and two males were sitting in a car – with the daughter in the driver’s seat – passing around a bottle of Seagram’s. The car was filled with smoke like a scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Well, Ms. Spicoli, when you finish with your bottle, you might want to come be with your mother.

Traditionally, wakes don’t start until after the patient dies.


  1. Sad. So sad. Makes me want to cry.

    My mom is pretty sick right now. I want every minute I can have with her. I wouldn’t dream of going out and saucing myself at the risk of missing a precious moment.

  2. If only this post was your attempt at fiction writing but, unfortunately, we in the medical field know you aren’t making it up…darn it all, sometimes.

    Well written post…

  3. Wow, it might be almost better to have not found her. Wouldn’t seem she would be in any shape to be making medical decisions. Ugh.

  4. Alcoholism is an illness too.

    Sad for the patient who clearly could have done with some family support though.

  5. Sad all the way around.

    I have a question for anyone to answer ..although I know no one can ..but if someone can shed light ..although I suppose only God knows. It’s a venting question.

    My mother smoked until she was in her mid 70s. I never thought she would quit ..but she did. never had any ill effects from it ..thankfully. This patient ..many people smoke and are alright.

    How the heck do people that *never* smoke and took care of themselves, never around chemicals,get lung CA?

    Just wondering.

    And I know people do become ill because of smoking ..but just wondering about the non smokers.

  6. Hi SeaSpray,

    Good question. I’ve wondered the same thing. My dad never smoked a day in his life, yet he got lung cancer.

    I read somewhere that his bout with tuberculosis 30 years earlier might have had something to do with it; the cancer started where the TB had been on his lung.

    I also think there is a lot of exposure to things like radon that don’t get much attention. We live in an area with paper mills and titanium manufacturing. The place is a chemical cesspool. I hear of lots of liver/pancreas, brain and lung cancers around here. (Not that my dad ever lived around here, no connection there!)

    I hope someone has a better answer.

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