A 28-year-old man came in with his mother complaining of chest and abdominal pain after drinking a whole bottle of Fireball Whisky on an empty stomach.  I had never heard of this sweet, cinnamon-flavored alcoholic drink but got the rundown from Xavier, the millennial physician assistant with whom I was working.

As I understand it, Fireball is not really whiskey at all but a cheap liquor that tastes like Red Hots. I understand it is looked down upon by serious consumers of whiskey. The fact that he drank the whole bottle, at home, alone, caused the young staff carrying for him to scorn him, behind his back, of course. The response seemed to be somewhere between, “What did you expect?” and “You deserve it.”

After talking with him and examining him, I was comfortable that he did just have a stomachache caused by his imprudent ingestion. I reassured him and told him I was going to have the nurse come bring him some medicine to make him feel better before he went home.

“Is it natural?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Does the medicine you’re going to give me come from natural sources?” he clarified.

“It comes from a big pharmaceutical factory. There is no reason to expect that anything we might give you here would be ‘natural,’” I answered.

This upset him and he told me he was astounded that we would offer anyone medicine without knowing about the origin of its ingredients.

I then pointed out the irony that someone would drink a whole bottle of Fireball Whisky, which is clearly not natural, yet refuse medication offered by a doctor because it was not “natural.”

“What are you getting at?” he asked.

At this point, his mother piped in, trying to help him understand. He turned, shook his finger at her and told her to stay out of his business. Their conversation quickly turned into an argument and I walked out the door.

I ordered his Maalox, in case he changed his mind about taking something “natural,” and processed his discharge papers.


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