Dear drunk driver: From your trauma surgeon


Dear drunk driver,

Tonight, I am tired.

Tired from lack of sleep, tired from the long hours, and tired from bearing witness to your destruction.

Tonight, you caused an accident while under the influence of alcohol. And you are badly injured, requiring emergency surgery. Your liver is hard, cirrhotic, and unforgiving. Although I can get you through this first surgery, I know you will not survive. I know over the next few days, your broken and beaten liver will begin to fail, your kidneys will stop working, you will start bleeding from every orifice of your body, and you will die.

Tonight, I met your family. They thought you had quit drinking, but they asked, and I answered, “Yes.”

“Yes” you had been drinking and “yes” your liver carries the scars of your addiction. “Yes,” it is likely you will not make it. I saw the hurt cross their eyes, the anger, the embarrassment. And then, the part that I dread the most, the part I was hoping wouldn’t happen, but it always does. They asked about the accident. They asked if someone else was injured. They asked if the other person was OK.

And a fresh, new, searing pain begins, because …

Tonight, you killed someone. Someone’s husband, wife, father, son, mother or daughter isn’t coming home.

I see a shadow cross your daughter’s soul as her mascara weeps down her face and stains her arms. I see your son’s image of you crumble upon the impact of my words. I see their shame, their sorrow, with no outlet other than tears. Their heartbreak reaches out and stabs at me, their confusion begs my sympathy.

Tonight, another family is being informed of their loved one’s death. Their souls, and hopes, and dreams are extinguished with the two words, “I’m sorry.”

Tonight, you are blissfully unaware and asleep — disoriented, medicated and sedated because of your own injuries. But while you sleep, perchance you dream of all the wreckage you have caused.

Tonight, you have blazed a trail of tears.

Tonight, I am angry.

Angry you didn’t know better, angry at all the hurt you have caused.

Tonight, I am angry.

Because I know this will happen again.

When does this end? When will you stop assaulting your body, your family and your friends? When will you stop tearing through lives, ripping out the hearts of people you know and of people you don’t?

When will you stop?

Please, let it be tonight.


Your trauma surgeon

This writing does not describe one particular patient or event, but is the unfortunate result of many patients and experiences I have had over the years.

Jamie Jones is a trauma surgeon. She blogs at Hot Heels, Cool Kicks, & a Scalpel.

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