Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dave Littlefield, heart surgeon

For most occupations in today's society, gross incompetence will quickly get you fired. Of course there are exceptions, including being GM of the Pittsburgh Pirates. What if Dave Littlefield had followed another path, and similarly failed? What if this utter failure was similarly tolerated? Today we explore one of these parallel universes...

Scene: an operating room. A horribly mangled corpse lies upon an operating table. DL, wearing full surgical gear, is covered in blood and surrounded by bustling assistants. The doors burst open, and the elderly Chief of Surgery, also in full surgical scrubs, enters.

Chief (rushing to corpse): What the hell is going on here?

DL: The motivation was simply that we felt like we could upgrade this man's organ systems like we've done in the past with many other patients.

Chief (inspecting corpse): He's dead. This man was to have an aortic valve replacement. Instead you ... implanted the GI tract of a cadaver into his thorax and arm to give him a second functional anus on his elbow?

DL: Whether it's media or his family, everybody has to realize that, if this man is going to get better, part of it is having a better backup GI tract. I don't want to undermine the fact that he's got a lousy heart. But, as far as other organs go, he's got good individual organs. Better days are definitely ahead for this man, and they're coming soon.

Chief (gravely): Dave, he's dead.

DL: There is often times a misperception of what kind of value certain vital signs have. That's always what's hard for people to understand that are kind of on the outside looking in. You always have in mind the fact that you've got to play the 'What if' game. What if this man's heart starts beating again?

Chief: You just killed a man! That's the third time today! Have you lost your damned mind?

DL: Not at all. This patient retains control over his new elbow sphincter for the next two years.

Chief: Goddamnit, Dave, are you listening to me? He's dead.

DL: In the future he'll need less of his heart just to a lesser degree. We'll maybe see in a couple years. His liver and lungs obviously are both doing a very nice job. His new second anus obviously has taken advantage of this new situation and done a solid job so far.

Chief: (sigh) Go wash up, Dave. Another patient's waiting in OR15.

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