Captain Mike

Twice the patient had called EMS, both times with a very serious complaint. When we arrived, both times, we found the patient had been drinking and wanted to go to the hospital for detox. He admitted in private that his more serious complaint was fabricated in an attempt to get a faster response. I would probably be annoyed, but something about the man reminded me of an old friend.

Captain Mike was an interesting character. When I knew him he lived his life alone in an old New England port city. ‘Captain’ was not merely a nickname; Mike was a real ship’s captain who had sailed all over the world. He had lived through a mutiny and spent most of his time on shore now.

In some ways Mike fit the stereotype of a sailor: he was a hard-drinking, functional alcoholic who lived with injuries sustained in his mutiny and with the scourge of diabetes. He wasn’t the old, grizzled, vulgar sea-captain of lore, though. He was a genuinely nice guy with lots of friends.

Almost 10 years ago now, we were saddened to learn that Captain Mike’s lifestyle had caught up with him. Drink and diabetes don’t mix. Mike had slipped into a coma and suffered alone for days before his body couldn’t survive any longer. Friends eventually found him in his apartment, but it was too late.

So Mike, here’s to you. You didn’t think you’d be doing good deeds on the mean streets of another city, all these years later, did you? Today you helped me see past the alcohol to a man’s soul. Hopefully we made a difference.

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