Thursday, June 2, 2016

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

I last posted a few years ago.  As one might imagine, a journey back to this blog may have stemmed from life throwing yet another curve ball.  While my current career in the emergency department thrives off of day to day existence in adversity under life and death circumstances, I, nevertheless, find myself looking for the next career step.  I wonder if I get bored after about 4 years, because every major education or career move happens on a cycle of 4 years.  So here I am staring down the 3-year mark barrel.  And, just like clock work, circumstances have lead me to the conclusion that I need, that I want, further education and expertise in what I see as my deep seated passion, spaceflight.  After leaving NASA 10 years ago to go to medical school, spaceflight remains at the forefront of my career thoughts.  I remain eternally grateful for the God given gifts of sound mind and body and the ability to walk through the valley of death and at times resuscitate those who can be saved, but I do not believe my education and career nor my evolution thereof stop with these abilities.  Over the last 3 years, my internal struggle to avoid further education and/or career moves have only ended with the foregone conclusion that I am not done yet.  After being passed up on two promising opportunities in aerospace medicine, darkness set in.  But with that darkness came the sunrise and soon I will apply for formal training in aerospace medicine.

Monday, November 3, 2014



"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it.  Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing." 
- Muhammad Ali -

After graduating from high school, I created a list, a five year plan.  Within the first year of that plan, it changed and changed again.  Something clicked.  I decided to become a physician, and so the plan went forward, full steam ahead.  My plan consisted of bombarding each undergrad course until it yielded to my will.  There would be no rest.  Most of my college friends thought I was nuts.  I didn't go out during the week and most weekends, instead it was about the grind.  I pushed myself harder and harder each semester.  Scoring well on an exam was never taken for granted.  I allowed myself to feel the edge of possible failure, and this would be my daily fuel.  Then one day, I questioned becoming a doctor.  I graduated without completing the medical school entrance exam, the infamous MCAT, and thus I did not apply to medical school.  I found myself lost in who I was and who I needed to be in this world.

By the grace of God, years later after starting a career with NASA, the medical school entrance exam would be the first of an absurd number of exams that would stand in my way to receiving not only my medical degree but also graduating from residency and then progressing to full board certification.  If I were to travel back in time to when I was graduating from high school and if I were to tell my much younger self that I would become an emergency medicine physician, then I wonder if I would have said, "Impossible!"  I firmly believe that the journey and not the individual successes or failures defines one's character.  My failures on this journey remain just as important if not more important than each success.  Thus far, accepting failure rests as my hardest but most important lesson.

On this day, I learned that I passed my final step in becoming a board certified emergency medicine physician.  But what does this really mean?  Because as awesome as I thought this moment would feel, i.e. about seventeen years in the making, it still feels a bit boring, a bit empty.

I pray that I never accept failure and never accept impossible. As long as there is breath in my lungs, it is never too late and never impossible.

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Thankful Thanksgiving

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.  The day’s purpose remains a day of reflection and kindness.  Then of course there are the ‘Four Fs’ of Thanksgiving: family, friends, food, and football.  Nevertheless, I spent my Thanksgiving this year working in the emergency department as did my wife.  Working holidays in the emergency department exists as a study of are and are not true emergencies.  After all, who wants to come to the emergency department when you have the Four Fs?  The emergency department census is filled with truly sick people; albeit, the number of people who actually come to the emergency department are in most cases down from the normal day.  Which I have always found fascinating in a perplexing kind of way?  Is it a true measure of true medical emergencies?  Is this what my life would be like in a perfect world?  

Certain radio calls from EMS get your attention in a deafening sort of way.  When the first sound you hear from the radio call is the siren, this is generally not a good sign, but by itself can be deceiving.  The second point of information that will get your attention will be the patient is a child or infant.  Lastly, there will be fuzzy details followed by the words, “cardiac arrest.”  At this point, everything stops.  The emergency department seems to freeze up for a few seconds, then faces turn towards you.  Concerns over other patients’ pending labs or consultant return phone call seem to fade into that category of “It will have to wait.”  

The child was found face down unresponsive floating in pool.  These are circumstances where everything comes down to the first few minutes.  The parents immediately retrieved the child and started resuscitation.  After one minute, their blue lifeless child cough up water and started to respond.  By the time the medics arrived the child was awake, alert, answering questions appropriately.  The child thankfully arrived under the same status with parents in tow.   It is difficult to explain the emotions.  When the dust settled after their arrival, I told the parents their child was alive and well because of their immediate decisive action.  A Thankful Thanksgiving. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"This is a pretty bad one."

“This is a pretty bad one.” “What’s the story.” “Post TPA bleed. They just transferred her from an another hospital.”

 As I walked into one of the resuscitation bays in the emergency department, I took notice of this middle aged woman. She seemed lifeless and intubated; a procedure performed at the outside facility after she lost the ability to protect her airway, a resulting problem from the ongoing bleeding in her brain. As the ventilator forced hyper-oxygenated air into her lungs, the neurosurgeon, already present in the emergency department, was setting up for an attempt at a heroic procedure to help reduce the pressure inside her skull. There was not time for pleasantries or move to the operating room, just a quick look between the neurosurgeon and myself. We both already knew the controversial clot-busting poison, TPA, circulating in her bloodstream gave her a poor prognosis in the face of her brain bleed, especially given the location of the bleed. As he performed the procedure, ventriculostomy, that would allow for relief of the elevated intracranial pressure, I reviewed the documentation from the outside facility. As I read, I became angry, very angry. In spite of hindsight being 20/20, this patient should never have received this controversial drug on at least three different major contraindications. In order to paint a better picture, the indications for use of this drug are so strict that there are clearly delineated guidelines and checklists for its use. Physicians are taught to never use this drug under nonchalant circumstances.

As her intracranial volume decompressed via the emergent procedure of placing an opening in her skull and now the ability to measure her intracranial pressure, we re-examined her and found no real change in her neurologic exam. Just a subtle response to pain, minimal central reflexes, and equal minimal responsive pupils. In the emergency department, she received blood product treatments that futilely attempted to reverse the bleeding process including a blood clotting factor just prior to heroic procedure. All we could do is helplessly watch and hope that her brain did not continue to bleed causing brain herniation and eventual death.

Eventually, the patient’s son arrived. He appeared shocked and bewildered. I honestly didn’t know where to begin, as he knew very little about the events that had transpired. So in the dimly lit room with the ongoing humdrum of the ventilator and occasional beep from the cardiac monitor, I told the family member everything I knew in an objective fashion. As I neared the end of the conversation where I described the prognosis, words became sparse, and my mouth became dry. I resisted the urge to became angry and tear. As the conversation concluded, he had no questions, which I expected. This news for far too deep-seated and shocking to allow for anything beyond breathing and otherwise paralysis. I fought through the piercing, utterly uncomfortable silence allowing the son a chance for any questions. The questions would come later. I left the room and went on to the next fire somewhere else in the intensive care unit.

As the night progressed into the early morning, she lost all reflexes and signs of life. Our fears were realized. Internally, I fumed in complete disgust of the complete incompetence of her prior caregivers. Their indiscretion directly resulted in her death. There was no way around this truth. This was not just a careless mistake or a quick life or death decision. There was time, and there was consultation with a so-called expert. Although I fully admit to not being witness to the initial patient encounter, the history of events and exam upon initial presentation were clearly described. By 8 a.m. with family present in the room, two physicians upon their own individual exam and evaluation, as per state law, declared her brain dead. The family allowed for discontinuation of mechanical ventilation.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Today I wrote the President...

Mr President et al,

I will keep this short. No matter the outcome of the budget debacle. Clearly, we live in a sad state of affairs. Our country has been tarnished by politicians who place their myopic views and greed in front of working together to make sure this country stays afloat, let alone excels. All to often, I feel as if this country is lead from the rear. Leadership on all accounts is by example from the front, not the rear. When I look to the branches of government (Executive, Legislative, Judicial), I feel as if I am sailing the night's sky without any stars.

What say you?


Will Dishong, M.D.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Misery loves company.

Aside from a miserable overnight shift last night until this morning, I haven’t left the couch in days. Hello, pediatric emergency medicine. I feel as if a nuclear bomb was ignited in my throat, not eating, doing my share of coughing up my lungs. And insult to injury, as I was walking by a mirror during my shift, I noticed one of my eyes seemed a little red. Yes, that’s right, good ole ‘pink eye,’ conjunctivitis, which would explain the slightly blurry vision and watery eye that kept giving me problems during my shift.

Enough of my violin playing, shall we? The other day I picked up a double chart, which means siblings. Chief complaints: iron burns…from last week. My heart sank. Who waits a week to bring in children who have multiple burns from an iron? I prayed for the truth, but instead I got an unbelievable history, burns that appeared to be different ages and suspicious locations, two very active children, and mother yelling at them the entire time. The two beautiful children, although very active and into everything, were amazing. One came up, gave me a big hug, and wanted to play with my stethoscope. I informed an attending physician of the case, and both attendings in the booth turned to me and gestured a look of professional disgust. Consultation to the social worker in order to involved Child Protective Services (CPS), check. Consultation to the burn service, check. The resident on the trauma / burn service actually disagreed with our standpoint of abuse. He found the implausible story to be plausible. This worried me, given the number of red flags being waived high in the air. As the hours dragged on, anyone walking by the room could hear the mother yelling at her children. Two or three hours later, I received unfortunate news from the social worker: no CPS visit tonight as they will go to the family place of residence in the morning. I would have to discharge these two children home given the circumstances. Now, I do not know a lot about how CPS works. I do know they are spread thin. But, the disposition of these two patients really worried and still worries me to this day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Life is so very precious. We take it for grant. We squander our lives in chasing after, for a lack of better terms, materialistic crap. Never mind personal responsibility. Let’s also not bother in bettering the world. We are completely caught up in chasing after some kind of ridiculous status on par with the flavor celebrity of the week. (Did you know there is a fifth ‘flavor’ we taste? Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty, and…Umami!) Then, we allow those crooks on the hill to take from us, and in effect we have allowed them to further divide this country. We are running our health care system and our economy into the ground, because we refuse to take responsibility for our actions.

Okay by now perhaps you are wondering why I keep using “We.” The etiology, the cause, lies in all of us, thus it is and will always be “We.” All the same, the answers rest in our appropriate and decisive action. This week I have spent some time reflecting on our Greatest Generation. Look around you, we exist because of their blood, sweat, and toil. Yes, you can dissect this generation and find fault as you can do any point with any one person or people, but as a whole, they were amazing! We have wandered far from them. Ultimately, I fear for the worse. No amount of technology will correct this fundamental problem nor will empty promises without action.

So I have quite the rant going here. What to do? To quote the famous Yoda (little green guy from Star Wars), “Do or do not. There is no try.” He is right! I believe we should not hang our hat on just trying to do right when it comes to noble and just causes. We must do. We must not accept an attempt. We must demand better from ourselves and responsibility for our actions. We must remember that we are all connected to each other and that we must educate, inspire, and nurture our youth.

Umami is a taste that is generally not directly perceived. However, the aforementioned taste revels with a pleasant savory characteristic. In essence, umami could be described as the glue of our fondest flavors. In “All I Need to Learn, I Learned in Kindergarten,” Robert Fulghum reminded us to revisit the Golden Rule, share, respect, take naps, wonder, question, have fun, laugh. I think he is right…well with a touch of umami sprinkled into our lives to help us along.
So, this holiday season I leave you with a final thought. A child name Mischa was battling with a brain tumor in a New York hospital. Unable to walk, from a wheelchair, this child would wheel around the hospital to see other children who had survived brain operations to remove their tumors. From the wheelchair she would offer words of encourage and hand them a tricycle to ride, a goal to achieve. The surgeon of this child wrote in reflection of observing this brave child:

“It’s how you behave in a ****-storm that shows what you’re made of. ‘Commit Random Acts of Kindness.’ There is NOTHING random about acts of kindness. Compassion is an active verb with moral consequences.” – If I Get to Five by Fred Epstein, M.D.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Peace. Peace be with you.