Letter from the Editor - Chock Full O'Nuts

By: Steve Elias, MD - AVF Newsletter Editor

Why? The words “chock full o’nuts” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It depends and as Dylan sings, “we just started from a different point of view, tangled up in blue”. Chock Full O’ Nuts: Planter’s peanuts?, a coffee brand?, a male porn star? Or an insane asylum? Remember the good old days when society used the words: insane, nuts and asylum in the same sentence? Not now. Not politically correct. The phrase “chock full o’nuts can be applied to many situations. As can the words “Is there a medical doctor on board this flight?”

I pondered how to answer that question. I hesitated to answer that question. I never wanted to answer that question. We are less than 1 hour into a 71/2 hour flight to Dusseldorf, Germany over the PA system and over the heads of the more than 300 people on the Lufthansa flight to Dusseldorf. My first thought was that I am not a “medical doctor” but rather a vascular surgeon. I guessed that they weren’t looking for a Doctor of Philosophy although someone on board could be having an existential crisis. Certainly not a Doctor of Chiropractic, useless. They wanted an MD. I concluded after much reluctance that I in fact did qualify.

But I wait. I was once in this predicament before when there was a very aggressive dentist and an EMT on board who responded first and they wanted no part of a surgeon’s help. Not that I cared. By the way, did you ever notice that dentists correct you as patients when you don’t call them doctors? Almost as insistent as psychologists. I leave my business class seat (the power of upgrades) and walk towards the back of the plane.

The passenger sitting on the floor in the aisle looks quite sick. Mid 70’s, pale, diaphoretic with shallow breathing. Already a very helpful nurse is there along with a flight attendant who is also a nurse. Weak pulse, abdominal cramping, hypertension on meds. We ask all the right questions but we can’t make a diagnosis. I then remember the old med school adage: “Face is red, raise the head. Face is pale, raise the tail”. They bring the cash cart and I do mean the crash cart. Lufthansa has everything: oxygen, BP monitor, cardiac meds, insulin, IV tubing and solutions. Do they have the Answer Machine? A CT scanner? Alas, I am afraid not.

In Blue News Now this issue has many answers. Answers about the past in our ongoing column entitled, “Looking Forward By Looking Back”. Past AVF presidents Peter Pappas and Tom O’Donnell give us their take on what other things they may have wanted to accomplish during their tenure. The answer as to where AVF is going can be found in the article highlighting ideas from our leaders Strategic Planning Retreat. Chip Draper from industry, Vascular Insights, succinctly answers a question that we all need to address. We need new members. Brian Santin MD, our Membership Committee incoming chair writes about how we can attract and retain new, younger members. And an interview with Tom Wakefield continues our feature about the advanced venous career when one may settle into a more relaxed but productive aspect of a career.

The passenger also seemed to be settling into a more relaxed mode. His BP is normal. He is alert and has gone to the bathroom and relieved his cramping. We get him into a business class seat and he rests. I go back to my seat and relax. I’m feeling pretty good about the entire incident even though I didn’t do much. The chief flight attendant taps my shoulder, “Doctor, we have 10 minutes to make a decision”. “We?” “In 10 minutes we reach the point of no return”. He says. It seems that we will be out of range from the last airport in North America, Gander, Newfoundland. “What do you think? Can we proceed?” I’m doing the geography. Gander and then the entire Atlantic Ocean. What about Iceland, Greenland, Ireland, The Azores? I’m feeling as if the flight attendant is chock full o’nuts.

Ever wonder why the coffee is called “Chock Full O’Nuts”? There aren’t any nuts. At a recent lunch meeting this question came up and it had nothing to do with coffee. It turns out that a William Black started Chock Full O’Nuts not for the coffee but for the nuts. He was selling nuts in NYC during the 1920’s when the Great Depression happened nuts became very expensive so he converted all his nut stores to coffee stores and kept the same name, Chock Full O’Nuts. Obviously he made the right decision to sell coffee instead of nuts. On the flight I needed to make the right decision. I asked to speak to the Captain but he was not coming out of the cockpit. So I take a sip of Scotch. Ponder the options. Thought if I really wanted to visit Gander, Newfoundland. I decided to check on the passenger. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t moving. Dead or alive? In either case, I thought, why bother him now. Either it was too late or he is sleeping soundly. We continued to Dusseldorf and I prayed he would wake up just as we were landing.

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