RON SCHALOW: Do Not Resuscitate

Fair warning: If the topic of suicide is a touchy one for you, it would be best to read something else.

Not long ago, I was watching a medical drama called “Chicago Med” on Hulu. It’s not a show I would seek out if it had 324 commercials. Pretty average. Anyway, a man and a small child were wheeled into the ER on gurneys and it wasn’t long before the man’s shirt was dramatically ripped open and dun dun duh. Everyone does the stare of disbelief.

The words “Do Not Resuscitate” were tattooed on the young man’s chest.

So the doctors ponder, and suffer angst, over the true wishes of the adult even though it is apparent that his brain has been deprived of oxygen too long. In my experience, “Do Not Resuscitate” means “Do Not Resuscitate,” and that’s what they finally concluded — after the requisite angst.

Anyway, the episode conveniently made me think of a novel, “Perfect Whack Jobs,” I published in 2013. The “Do Not Resuscitate” tattoo came up in Chapter 38. I’m not claiming any ownership. Someone would have needed to read the book first to do any stealing. And I didn’t swipe it.

Anyway, the guys in the scene are all destined for self-elimination, except for the guard. They all know their days are limited and were all waiting to hear a broad brush of the plan. These men had all been scooped up by a Blackwater-type outfit because of two things. They were all diagnosed with suicidal ideation and they wouldn’t be missed.

Forcing them to complete a suicide bombing would be doing them a favor. One was taken by mistake, but there is no return due to the secrecy of the mission.

But thinking about suicide, no matter how constantly, is not the same as actually going through with it. In this particular group, a pair is thrilled by the idea, a few grudgingly accept their fate, and a couple of them may need to be pushed into Pakistan, where everybody knows that Osama bin Laden and a load of Taliban fighters are hiding out after escaping Afghanistan in 2006.

Suicide is a complicated topic. Some apparent suicides are accidents. Some accidents are really a suicide, and some illnesses and stray bullets are wishes come true. And every possibility in between those options.

Obviously, suicide still hasn’t gotten fair coverage, or funding, as shown by the bad news that just came out Thursday. Suicides are up 33 percent since 1999, and there is still a major public stigma attached to the act.

From USA Today:

“Public health experts say: Suicide is preventable.

People think: Suicide is inevitable.

Consciously or unconsciously, many Americans write off those who seriously consider killing themselves as hopeless causes, unreachable. A study in 2017 showed that people are skeptical of a suicidal person’s ability to recover — the idea that even if we stop the person today, we won’t tomorrow.

“If you think once someone’s suicidal that they’re just going to die, then it doesn’t make sense to invest money in that,” (Thomas) Joiner, a leading suicide researcher, said of a common point of “ignorance.’”

Here’s the pertinent conversation from chapter 38; “He’s Not That Responsive, Man”:

“Group discussion,” yells Sig. “Shush for a minute. This is a Type-C grade topic, so it requires modest focus.”

“Quiet people; it’s a Type-C,” utters Edwin.

“Thank you, Edwin. Now then, a question to open; did any of you know …”

“Forget it,” says Edgecombe. “I don’t shut up on command. I refuse to…”

“Henreee,” warbles Sig. “Some order, please.”

“Never mind, never mind,” stutters Edgecombe. “I’ll shut up. Carry on.”

“Thank you, now, finally, thank you, Henry; did any of you know that you can donate your heart while you’re alive, but they won’t extract it from your chest until you’re body dead, or brain dead? It’s a firm rule they have.”

“I knew that,” says Edwin.

“I did, too,” adds Noakes.

“Well, you’re definitely brain dead,” smirks Edgecombe, unable to control himself. Henry doesn’t notice.

“That’s what I told them people at the hospital, but they said I wasn’t brain dead ENOUGH! Then, I said, ‘what do you care?’ and we got into this whole noisy incident about whose business is what, and some side issues that I don’t care to mention.”

“Wait a minute,” shouts Ken. “You wanted them to put you on an operating table and take out your heart, Sig?”

“If they wanted to get fancy about it, but I didn’t really care where they cut it out. I wasn’t uppity in that sense if that’s what you mean. I did ask for some anesthesia, though. Who wants to listen to me gab while you’re trying to do something important? Nobody I know.”

Ken stares vacantly and then regroups. “No, I mean the killing part. You didn’t seriously expect the hospital to kill you on demand, did you?”

“Yes. Yes, I did.”

“You are aware that removing your heart will kill you, aren’t you?”



“That was one of the best selling points.”

“You can’t be …”

“I’m well aware of the body’s inner workings, especially the pumps and hoses. I wanted to make sure they got a fresh heart because I sure can’t guarantee that I’ll come in ‘brain dead’ by THEIR standards under normal circumstances.”

“I’ll do it for you,” offers Edgecombe.

“I’ve thought about fricking doing that, too,” muses Kyle, aloud. “They won’t damn budge though. You try to do something fricking decent, and they make it sound so damn tawdry.”

“What!?” yelps Ken.

“It would sure be more peaceful and productive than a bullet to the brain, which I also can’t do for legal reasons pertaining to ownership,” states Edwin. “Of course, the doctors could take whatever other organs they wanted, right?”

“Of course,” nods Sig, knowingly. “They could make 110-proof pate out of my liver, for all I care. I was totally reasonable in that regard. Take everything out but the squeal and toss the bad worn out components down the garbage disposal. This country would be knee deep in spare parts if the rules weren’t so calcified rigid. I’m totally thrilled to explode myself, but nobody is getting any parts now — at least not any big ones.”

“What a dumbass,” murmurs Edgecombe.

“I’m speechless,” says Ken.

“I’m heightless,” mumbles Henry. “Before the reassignment; a 6-foot wolverine of a man, I was; then the archdiocese in Brussels intervened to settle an old score. What are we doing in this painful room?”

“That Oliver dude, the one with the slug in his head, had a plan for his parts,” says Sig. “He had a scenario where he would call the hospital from the parking lot, then wound himself good in the head with a long range pistol. Theoretically, his usable parts would still be good if the doctors didn’t dally. He recommended doing it in the winter so the organs wouldn’t spoil as fast. Turn off the heat in the car, he said, and roll down a window or two. It would be hassle, but if they won’t let you walk through the door, go in on a gurney, I guess.”

“You would get so cold that you would be itching for a hot bullet to the head,” contributes Noakes.

“Could you shoot out the car windows for dramatic effect?” asks Edwin.

“I don’t see why not,” answers Sig. “I would try not to kill any passersby, though, for PR reasons. Ollie also suggested pinning a laminated notarized note to your shirt with permission to harvest — to cut through bureaucratic red tape.”

“Oliver thought this plan through?” asks an astonished Ken.

“Oliver had lots of cool plans,” answers Sig. “His plans were complicated, too; weren’t they Henry?”

“He was a suicidal genius. I hope he’s in a good hole.”

“Hell,” Sig continues, “the best I could do was fill a chest of drawers to the brim with undershirts imprinted with three 8-inch high letters — DNR.”

“The friggen damn Department of Natural Resources? What the fuck are we dang talking about?”

“That’s what everyone thought,” responds Sig. “I would be laying there all critically wounded, and the doctor would be trying to resuscitate me like a maniac, what with me being a big shot with the Department of Natural Resources; instead of Doing Not Resuscitate, man. I’m an idiot.”

“Maybe,” says Ken, “and I can’t believe I’m saying this; you should have had the full words, ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ tattooed on your chest, Sig, to avoid confusion and save money on t-shirts.”

“See? Now there’s some high class thinking.”


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