A Revelatory Re-Evaluation

Avoid the Creosote Diet, at all costs.

The other morning, while finishing the night-shift, I was showing my colleagues around the patients on the intensive care unit. We came up to bed 5.

“How are you this morning Sir, are you feeling better today?” I cheerily enquired of him.

He piercingly stared at his interrogator and rudely and gruffly snapped back “Well I wouldn’t be in this God-forsaken ward if I was alright, would I!”. With evident self-satisfaction at his salvo, he stared straight ahead and continued to puff and wheeze to himself.

Taken aback, my brow furrowed. I looked closely, first at him, all 220 kg of him, consisting mostly of adipose tissue and retained fluids. His was surely the largest human frame I had ever seen. We had only just rescued him from a scarily close encounter with the grim reaper a few days before. Inside that bulk was a scared little fella trying to get better.

We then perused his monitors and charts. Without doubt, all his numbers were back within normal limits or heading that way. His only infusion, of noradrenaline to support his blood pressure, was almost completely tapered off. His nurses and doctors hastily conflabbed together before reaching a unanimous verdict: He was going to be alright.

I began my address to him, adopting the air of a Hanging Judge:

If I recall correctly Sir, the sign above the front door of this fine healthcare institution reads “Hospital”, not “Hospice”. Not everyone is admitted here just to die.

From all the evidence before us, it is clear that you are in fact on the mend. Indeed, we will send you to the ward today, and from thence at a later date you will be taken to your final resting place,  for the time being at least: your own home!

(In reality, my language wasn’t quite as pompous or theatrical as that, but I ask readers to temporarily suspend their disbelief in the interest of show-business 😉 ).

This latter day Mr Creosote turned his x-ray eyes towards me again. I expected to be roasted in their beams for my impertinence.

Then the corners of his tiny mouth began to curl into a smile, and his frown softened.

“Well all right Doc……you win”, he huffed resignedly, “As it happens I am feeling a bit more chipper today, thanks to you all.”

He and I exchanged a thumbs-up. Conflict, upset and despair had been averted.

I bade farewell to my lovely co-workers and left “The Burrito Institute for the Terminally Bewildered” to begin my long awaited and needed holidays.

Take care y’all. See youse again in July, God willing!


About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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8 Responses to A Revelatory Re-Evaluation

  1. I try to be kind and charitable to other people. But I have to theoretically – as it were – humble myself and beg forgiveness for the way I would have reacted if I had been in Brother Burrito’s situation. I just could not have said what Brother Burrito said. If I were a doctor, and such a patient had responded to my polite enquiry with, “Well I wouldn’t be in this God-forsaken ward if I was alright, would I!”, I probably would have answered, “Well, f–k you!” and left. I really, truly admire Brother B. for the way he handled the situation. I mean it. Again, I am quite sure I simply could not have done that.

  2. Tom Fisher says:

    Well I wouldn’t be in this God-forsaken ward if I was alright, would I!

    It seems that he kept a certain gruff and dry sense of humour despite his malady. I’m not sure that RJB needs to humble himself for what he might have done – but in the event I imagine that RJB would have silently left the ward, then returned later and declared A friend has sent me an email about you, it’s rather terse..

  3. johnhenrycn says:

    Ha, ha! Robert John has, I think, a sense of humour, and his yappy, incontinent – retromingent actually – chihuahua friend is not meant to be taken too seriously.

  4. Brother Burrito says:


    All I can say is that when I was younger, I was very easily upset by hostile ingratitude for my efforts to help people. Over the years I have come to realise that expressed anger is a symptom of some inner pain or fear on their part, ie some weakness to be cared for. Retaliation is exactly not the correct response! Turning the other cheek is, and dare I say it, being a bit cheeky can help too 😉 Playing the aggressor’s game will always result in you losing, or somebody’s blood being spilt. A knight’s move sideways and on is the most apt.

    Upsets and bitter experiences are inevitable in life, but can be turned into resources. To measure the influence of Grace upon one’s soul, the scientific approach is to plot the number of upsets each day. As Grace increases, the upsets decrease, and vice versa. I believe this method is suggested in the spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola.

    My own plot resembles the stock exchange: slow rises and sudden falls, but I am hopeful of a general rising trend, God willing.

  5. Catherine Geldart says:

    When one is a patient feeling b awful an overly chipper ‘how are we today’ can grate, we all need to communicate better and show mutual respect.

  6. kathleen says:

    Brother Burrito,

    I want you (and nobody else) to be my doctor if I ever have to spend time in a hospital* again. Promise you I shall control my impetuous nature and will be an obedient and grateful patient… Having such a kind and loving doctor to look after me how could I be anything else? 😉 Please say “yes”. God love you.

    * Almost six years ago I spent over a week in hospital after suffering a bad cycling accident in which I stabbed the point of the brake right through my left thigh and almost bled to death! All the doctors and nurses who treated me were kind and caring, except one! This doctor who appeared on the last day to give me my papers had obviously got out of bed on the wrong side. He was gruff and rude – not only to me, but to the other three women in the ward with me too – greatly distressing the poor little nurse who was accompanying him and seeing how upset he was making everyone.
    When you are unwell you feel vulnerable and are also more sensitive to the way you are treated, I think.

    I have always believed that Our Lady took care of me at the time of the accident and kept me from dying. I had a strong feeling of Her presence as I lay on the ground blood gushing out of my leg, whilst trying to pray the Hail Mary.

  7. Brother Burrito says:

    Dear Kathleen and Catherine,

    Thanks for your comments. I am aware that I must tailor my approach to the individual patient’s personality and situation. Their face gives the biggest clue, but also all the facts of their case known up to that point. I get it right perhaps 90% of the time. The 10% lead me to backpedal and apologise humbly and make amends if possible. Very rarely, some patients or relatives won’t accept my reconciliatory manoeuvres and I have to call in a colleague to rebuild the bridges.

    I remember being a very junior doctor dealing with a delirious patient on ITU. The senior nurse, who was a devout born-again Christian, was trying to kindly coax the lady to stay in her bed and take her medicines. In a fit of paranoia, the lady shouted out “Stay away from me, you CREEPING JESUS!” (I had never heard that expression before). Her delirium was becoming a threat to her own safety and that of the other patients. I had to sedate her with haloperidol. I had no other choice.

    Delirium is a temporary insanity common amongst the seriously ill. It goes away as the body recovers. It can be difficult to tell delirium from a pre-existing cussed personality. The relatives can often tell you if the patient is their normal self or not.

    My goodness Kathleen, it sounds like you diced with death back then. The leg arteries are pretty juicy and one can bleed out from one quite easily. Thank goodness you got the necessary care in time.

    As regards grumpy doctors (and nurses): Well, I’ve been one of them! Such souls need some time out usually. Caring can be stressful and all of us are vulnerable to burn-out. Few people enter the caring professions with the intention of making a ruthless fortune (in the UK at least). They are usually motivated by a glimmer of kindness, and have some talent for it as well. I have noticed of late how many of my brilliant colleagues in all disciplines are acting as if under great duress, sometimes losing it and “going postal”.

    I blame the NHS as it currently operates. There is a deep malaise there.

  8. kathleen says:

    “My goodness Kathleen, it sounds like you diced with death back then. The leg arteries are pretty juicy and one can bleed out from one quite easily. Thank goodness you got the necessary care in time.”

    Thank you, Burrito. Yes, I was very lucky that the ambulance came immediately thanks to the emergency phone call the driver of the car made (the one I’d been trying to avoid when I had the accident) and the tourniquet given me that cut off the blood supply to the leg. The subsequent operation in the hospital lasted four hours, and I was given at least two blood transfusions. Considering how serious the accident was, I made an amazing recovery, and have been left with no more than an impressive scar on my upper thigh and a slight lack of feeling down the inside part of the leg owing to the damage done to the nerves.
    It took me a whole year before I could pluck up the courage to go back to cycling again too. 🙂

    That brush with death really brought home to me how fragile life is and how vital it is to always remain in a state of grace. Our Lady was with me taking care of me – I know it – and I hope and pray She will be there at the hour of death as we implore in every Hail Mary.

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