Death & Loss

A Memory of Ground Beef.

Once when I was on a specialized heart failure service, I took care of a teenage boy. He had a form of idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (a weak, enlarged heart), and he had a huge heart…in more ways than one.

He loved baseball, pumpkin pie, and horses. His family owned a farm, so before he got sick, he would often go horseback riding. He also loved to draw.

We—a team of five physicians—took care of him for a month while he was waiting for a heart transplant. He liked us. We liked him. So he drew us as well.

I thought he was clever. But he thought I was even more so. All because he liked my joke:

“What do you call a cow with no legs?”

“Ground beef.”

That was it. He was just a great kid, trying his best to live the life given to him.

It used to be, that at the end of our visits, we would both say to each other, “Ground beef!” with a wink and a huge smile. It perplexed the other physicians, but we knew exactly what we were talking about.

It was just a silly joke. But for the two of us, it somehow meant something more.Β 

I found out recently that he passed away. And today I found the drawing he gave me. And I wept.

So here’s to you, dear buddy…

Ground beefΒ πŸ˜‰


52 replies »

  1. This is the reason I know I could never work in healthcare. I’m too weak for it. I’m quite averse to hospitals in fact. Not hate, no. Afraid. I’d rather take a whole bottle of pills that see a doctor. Of course part of it is that I have a phobia for needles. Injections? Jesus Christ please come before that prick touches my ass! But part of it, I suspect, is the same reason that my father decided he’d rather die in his own home than stay another day in that open boulevard of broken bodies and spirits. You see, hospitals here tend to belong in either of two opposite extremes: really good or just absolutely terrible, and my father happened to be in one of the latter, where every sick soul share the same space. Father couldn’t bear it, and neither could I. Strange though that that experience inspires my short fiction ‘A Pair of Orbs’, which is one – or the only one – of my stories that actually ends on a hopeful note – or does it? Strange indeed! But anyway, I respect that you give yourself to others like that. I just pray you do not lose yourself in it all. Thankfully, you’ve got quite a cat to purr you back!

    • I actually can identify a lot with you on that. I do not mind hospitals as long as I am there to care for people, but I would rather do anything than to be a patient myself or to have one of my loved ones in the hospital. In general I have a lot of respect for health care in the states…but I have heard about and seen some tragic things in other places (specifically in the country where I’m from), where some people who call themselves doctors seem to lack the ethical mindset that makes a doctor good. Then I saw it first-hand with my ill grandpa and it broke my heart.

      Thank you for your kind sentiments, and yes…Samantha is quite a cat…16 lbs of cat to be exact! πŸ˜›

      Take care πŸ™‚

  2. I don’t know how you handle it; I’m a primary responder where I work and I’ve seen a few things in my 20 years of working in this industry as a PR. Yesterday I had to attend to a child (10 yrs) who has been suffering from Acute Migraines for weeks (family is in Toronto trying to get her assessed at Sick Kids.) The screaming and crying was unbearable, her mother was in tears, all I could do was calm the mother down and assure her until EMS got there, and keep the little one comfortable and out of the light. I’m off work today but waiting on a call from the family to see how she’s doing. Sorry…Maybe I just needed to vent.

  3. What a bittersweet memory, Phoebe. I find it among the highest forms of tragedy when someone so young has not had the opportunity of experience all life could offer them. (as an aside, I am a transplant survivor and know the absolute value of that gift). Blessings on ya, Doc ! πŸ™‚

  4. Oh, sad. It’s nice to create bonds because it’s the stuff that makes a difference to your patients to feel more human. Grieving makes you human and you will never forget him. Ground Beef!

  5. What a great story. I was going to say something clever but it faded into pathetic when compared to the reality of your story. It would be so nice if one day we could all meet with the people we connect with as bloggers and have coffee, a laugh and a few tears. I love your blog.

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