Acute Wuss Syndrome

In a previous post, Dr. Cranky examined that phenomenon known in Emergency Department circles as the Princess. Specifically, he detailed the havoc such damsals in distress inflict upon their surrounding environment and referred to their behavior as APS or Acute Princess Syndrome. In this latest communication he would now like to examine the male counterpart of APS, which is known by the emergency department cognoscente as AWS or Acute Wuss Syndrome.

Whenever he contemplates this particular personality type, Dr. Cranky often finds himself asking the question, “when did so many members of the male gender devolve into such wussies?” For those who are unfamiliar with the characteristics of a wuss, one way to describe him would be to say that this poor little dear is in touch with his femnine side just a little too much. This, however, is not adequate. Dr. Cranky believes a more detailed explanation is in order. Let us examine a clinical situation which your host actually had the displeasure of dealing with.

Dr. Cranky recalls a day, not too long ago, when he was going about his business of stamping out disease and saving lives. Suddenly, from off in a far corner of the Department he heard a most unruly din. He pondered the noise for a moment. After further consideration, he decided that “din” was not an adequate description. Instead, your host decided that what he heard was a welter of discordant lamentation so intense that it must have come from the very pages of Dante’s The Inferno. “Goodness,” Dr. Cranky thought to himself, “the Emergency Medicine gods are punishing me, yet again. What have I done to deserve this cheery little ray of sunshine?” Your correspondent considered a quick call to Security before venturing toward the cacophony which filled his ears but thought better of it when he saw Jerry, one of the ED nurses, come out of Room 17. As Dr. Cranky passed by he rolled his eyes toward the heavens. “If you’re not out of there in 10 minutes I’ll send in the Marines,” he remarked.

Upon entry, Dr. Cranky encountered a scene hauntingly reminiscent of what he beheld during his skirmish with the Princess and the Macho Man. For those of his readers who may have forgotten, or are too languorous to scroll down two posts, he shall reproduce it here.

Once more, Dear Reader, into the breech!


There were only a few differences between these two situations. The first distinction involved the intensity of emotion. Whereas the Princess lay quietly in bed and let her minions do all the talking for her, this gentleman (who shall be referred to as Mr. W) was holding his finger and caterwauled as if the boogeyman himself had just slapped him around. The second difference concerned the gender of the surrounding attendants. Whereas Princess had members of both sexes at her beck and call, this Milquetoast had only women surrounding him. The very air reeked of high drama.

“Oh my God,” the man screamed. “Oh my God. Knock me out! Knock me out!” Despite the tears and gnashing of teeth, a cursory glance revealed him to be completely uninjured except for his left index finger, which was wrapped with a towel. The maidens surrounding him were duly impressed with his suffering and cast worried glances back and forth, convinced that at any moment he would surely shuffle off this mortal coil. Such women are usually found in the presence of a wuss and are commonly referred to as The Worried Wenches. In fact, it has been Dr. Cranky’s observation that those suffering from Acute Wuss Syndrome are almost always accompanied by such women. He has never seen a wuss present to the ED in the company of a man.

Let us step back from this scene for just one moment for a bit of background information. As an emergency medicine resident, Dr. Cranky trained in one of the busiest trauma centers to be found within these great United States. He has personally witnessed some truly horrendous injuries. Allow him to provide you, Dear Reader, with just a taste of what he has experienced in his brief existence on this good Earth.

At one time there was a photograph of your humble servant which adorned the wall of the Level One Trauma Center he trained in. In this picture, taken by F***ing Frank Flannigan, the young Dr. Cranky is engaged in a trauma resuscitation. He remembers the situation well. An unfortunate young woman, driving late at night, had gambled she would be able to traverse a railroad crossing before an oncoming train cut her off and had lost the bet. She arrived with both legs cut off above the knees (with tourniquets applied courtesy of EMS), and had sustained significant second degree burns. She was barely conscious upon arrival and sustained a cardiac arrest shortly thereafter. One of the more interesting aspects of her appearance, however, was a large piece of metal which had impaled itself through her abdomen. In the picture, taken from the perspective of where her feet and legs had once been, your intrepid physician had been captured in the act of performing that sacred ritual known as an ED thoracotomy. Specifically, Dr. Cranky had cut open the woman’s chest and put one hand into her thoracic cavity in search of the aorta. He was holding a Satinsky clamp in his other hand and was trying to cross-clamp this major artery so as to prevent any further bleeding into the abdomen. Dr. Cranky was soaked in blood from the waist down and the woman’s stumps protruded into the foreground. It was a truly horrific scene and, for all he knows, this picture may still grace the walls of his former alma mater. This is just one experience Dr. Cranky has lived through during his time in the trenches. There are others, of course. Some of them are far worse.

With memories such as this running around in his head, Dr. Cranky asked those present in the room with Mr. W to enlighten him as to the events which had recently transpired. Had ninja assasins attacked the homestead? Perhaps the family had been assailed by chainsaw-wielding maniacs, only to be fought off by the ever-resourceful Mr. W. No, as it turned out the patient had been cutting a bagel in his kitchen and the knife slipped, inflicting an as-yet-unseen injury to his index finger. Your host approached his charge with much trepidation. Regardless of Mr. W’s performance up to this point, Dr. Cranky had experienced patients of this sort before and was not looking forward to what he knew would be a performance worthy of an Academy Award.

As Dr. Cranky started to unwrap the towel, his patient let out a scream. Each attempt to view the finger was met with similar protestations and Mr. W writhed on the stretcher. This was followed by the Worried Wenches wincing at each of Dr. Cranky’s actions, all the while clucking their disapproval and imploring him to be more gentle. Given the dramatics, one would have expected the finger to amputated. At the very least there should have been exposed bone and tendon. After much ado, the towel was finally removed and Dr. Cranky beheld . . . a scratch. You read that correctly, Dear Reader, Mr. W had sustained an obviously life-threatening . . . scratch. It is no exaggeration to say that your faithful chronicler of death and destruction had seen paper cuts of greater severity. Dr. Cranky thought about the many trauma patients he had attended to over the years and then looked back down at the index finger before him. Somehow, Mr. W’s injury just didn’t quite measure up. Without a word, your host let go of the patient’s hand, turned and left the room. He’s sorry, but he just couldn’t help himself. He instructed Jerry to apply a bandaid and send Mr. W on his way.

Dr. Cranky does his best to try and appease the Patient Relations weevils. He is more than happy to be compassionate, caring and provide extra “sensitivity to each patient’s emotional needs” (or whatever bromide the PR people have read about in their trade journals this week). Perhaps it’s a generational thing. Although he didn’t grow up during the age of iron men and wooden ships, Dr. Cranky recalls an incident from his youth when he and the Cranky Father were removing some farm equipment from a barn. The two of them were trying to carry out the blade from a plow when it slipped and cut Dr. Cranky accross the back of his forearm. He dropped the blade. “Dad,” he said, “I’ve been cut.” The Cranky Father stopped and gave the young Dr. Cranky a look which could have easily blistered the paint off a battleship. “Is your arm cut off,” he asked? “No sir,” Dr. Cranky replied, realizing his gaffe. “I see,” the Cranky Father said. “Well then, are you bleeding to death?” The youthful Cranky Pre-teen swallowed hard and ventured yet an0ther feeble “no sir.” “Then pick up the G*d-damned blade,” retorted the Cranky Father, “we’ve got work to do.” And that’s just how men were.

It’s not just Dr. Cranky who feels this way, either. Mario Puzo illustrated most men’s attitude about wussies exceptionally well in the movie The Godfather during the scene between Don Corleone and Johnny Fontaine. In this scene, Johnny is talking with the Don about a problem his is having with a movie producer in Hollywood. The producer, a man by the name of Jack Woltz, won’t give Johnny a part in his new movie. The scene plays out as follows:

Johnny Fontane: [sobbing] Oh, Godfather, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.
Don Corleone: [enraged, he stands up and slaps Johnny accross the face] You can act like a man!
[Johnny continues to sob]
Don Corleone: What’s the matter with you. Is this how you turned out? A Hollywood finocchio that cries like a woman?
[Don Corleone imitates him sobbing]
Don Corleone: [continues to imitate Johnny] What can I do?
[camera pans to Tom Hagen, who is laughing]
Don Corleone: What can I do? What is that nonsense. Ridiculous.

As Dr. Cranky has already surmised, it has to be a generational thing. He is sorry to report that he just doesn’t have any patience with drama. The reason is simple: The Wuss and the Princess both trade in emotional currency in an effort to manipulate those who care about them. They view their loved ones as chumps, ripe to be conned, and are willing to use them in an effort to get whatever it is in life they want at that moment. With apologies to Tennessee Williams, these parasites are like Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire and will always rely on the kindness (and gullibility) of others.

Dr. Cranky doesn’t like dealing with such people and he feels sorry for their families. His job is hard enough without all the drama and scheming which surround these riffraff. They take time away from those who really need his care and expertise. Chuck Palahniuk, in his novel Fight Club, has put to paper that which Dr. Cranky has always wanted to say to both the Wuss and the Princess. Chuck writes, “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile.”

All your drama and $1.50 might get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Or maybe not.

Don’t press your luck.

About Dr. Cranky

Dr. Cranky is a residency-trained, board-certified emergency physician who has been fighting in the trenches of American medicine for far too long. Each day he tries to stay one step ahead of burnout. Despite his best efforts, burnout seems to be closing in fast.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.