I Was President Reagan’s Doctor for the Night

It was a Tulane day On August 18, 1988.  I was the fifth year general surgery resident on-call at Charity hospital.  It would have seemed like just another night at Charity hospital except that it was the final day of the Republican national convention.  George HW Bush was to get the Republican nomination that night at the Superdome 2 blocks away from Charity hospital.  The week before the convention, one of the Whitehouse physicians came to the Tulane surgery department.  He happened to be a vascular surgeon.  He attended our D&C conference the Friday before as well as went through our files.  I remember that the days when the convention was in town, August 15-18, 1 OR was taken off the schedule and left open in case it was needed by the present or vice president.  The blood bank had 2 units packed red blood cells on hand for both.  Once I had finished my daily routine of cases and rounds, I checked on the charge resident in the emergency room.  It was then that I met the secret service agent with “the phone” in the accident room.  I spent the majority of the night talking with him.  When I asked him hypothetical scenarios about what we should do if the president or vice president was shot and came to the hospital, he told me that he was just there to observe and we should treat them as a routine emergency.  The whole night I was hoping for my 15 minutes of fame by getting to be in charge and treat the president or vice president.  All I was hoping for was a superficial or glancing bullet wound that could be treated easily with a chest tube or evaluated by routine x-rays and arteriogram.  What struck me was that the secret service agent was about the same age as I was late 20s, early 30s.  Fortunately or unfortunately for me, it was a fairly quiet night at Charity that night.

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