Party Like There’s No Tomorrow


Young people, particularly young males, are stupid. Old guys like me
have been saying that since the dawn of time. Clayton Cardinalli.

Oddly, it was early Saturday afternoon that was invariably the most fascinating. The typical MO involved the obligatory massive frat party the night before. Something would happen, the victim would pass out, and then they would come see me at work early afternoon Saturday after the buzz wore off. I’m neither clever nor creative enough to make this stuff up.

Our hero sat in a chair in Room 7, the procedure room at the clinic. It’s part playroom and house of horrors. Over the years, I’ve seen some of the most fascinating stuff there. This particular afternoon was frankly epic.

He seemed at ease when first we met. He reclined in the chair, his eyes closed and his face toward the ceiling. As I do several dozen times a day, I simply asked what brought him in to see me.

School had recently wrapped for the semester, and the party was commensurately epic: booze, music, girls, and mayhem aplenty. This throw down had everything but a defibrillator and a fire truck.

The young man had been behind the frat house with his buddies when somebody threw a Budweiser bottle against the back brick wall. The brown glass container predictably exploded and the kid got something in his eye. A buddy vigorously irrigated his eye with a nearby garden hose. By now, most thoroughly wasted, he made his way upstairs to his room and passed out.

He told me he slept well that night. He awakened with the obligatory splitting headache and some blurred vision, but was otherwise apparently no worse for wear. A short while after he began stirring his eye became seriously irritated, so he came to see me.

I gently and innocently donned a pair of gloves and pried open the eyelid of the affected eye. I was greeted by a shard of Budweiser bottle protruding from his cornea. The human pupil is typically circular. His was a trapezoid. The area of his cornea adjacent to the glass was already frosted white.

Herein resides one of my greatest professional challenges. I’ve done this for twenty years and, along the way, have explored my limitations. At one time, I would have attempted almost anything at least once. Nowadays I am more seasoned and conservative in the practice of my art. Under circumstances such as these, my difficulty is simply masking my shock and surprise.

It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Jacob Bentzinger.

Little would be improved by my shrieking “Holy crap!” and running out of the room. I simply studied this poor guy’s shredded eyeball and said, “Hmmm…”

If you’re ever in a medical facility and somebody like me walks in and says “Hmmm…” just know that you’re most thoroughly screwed.

This kid could tell I was impressed, so he asked. “Well, doc, how bad is it?”

I answered honestly — something to the effect of, “Truthfully, not awesome, bro.”

He next explained that he’d recently received his commission through Air Force ROTC and had been celebrating both that storied event as well as his graduation from college. He went on to say that he had a slot to Air Force flight school in three weeks. He asked if this was going to cause him any problems.

I was a military aviator myself. I saw guys get dropped from that program for some of the most ludicrously esoteric reasons. At least at the beginning, they quite literally demanded perfection. The military is notoriously unforgiving in that regard. As gently as I was able, I explained this was likely going to be a setback.

I packaged the guy up and sent him to the ER. They called in one of our local Ophthalmologists who refused to touch him. The ER guys then shipped him up to the Med in Memphis, a gigantic world-class trauma center. They successfully got the glass out. However, all those breathtakingly complex ciliary muscles that control the magnificent camera that is the human eyeball had been utterly destroyed.

Once your cornea starts to cloud over there’s not a great deal to be done about it. The kid had a couple of surgeries followed by a cornea transplant, and his flight slot went to some other deserving soul. That young man had the rest of his life to think about how awesome party that was.

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