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VOL. 129 | NO. 172 | Thursday, September 4, 2014

Vic Fleming

Oh Death!

By Vic Fleming

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In the spring of 2002, I coded – for the first and, I hope, only time in my life. That’s my story and ... I was sticking to it, until I told it in the company of a med school cardiologist a few weeks afterward. He interrupted and said, “You died.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You died,” he repeated. His accent gave the word a two-syllable feel. “Dye-eed.”

“Hmm. OK. All right, then. What d’ya know.” Maybe I didn’t say all of that, but only half. Or maybe just hmm. “When I ... dye-eed, they used the paddles to shock me back to life.”

“It’s called a defibrillator.”

“As that was taking place, I’m told, I convulsed. That, in turn, caused something to tear a hole in my artery.”

“The catheter.”

As Dr. Know-It-All raised a wine glass to his lips, I paused to see if he might just take over my story altogether.

“Yes. Precisely. The catheter. So now we have a hole where no hole had been intended. Don’tcha hate when that happens?” I glanced at the doc. Nothing. “And so, with the torn artery’s needing to heal and given that the two stents that’d been installed were doing their job, the surgeon called it a day.”

“A wise choice. But you seem to have come through it well. Well.”

“Yes, I came back to life ... just fine. Well.”

Death is a topic that comes up. For people who are alive. We cannot hide from it. We just have to take it as we find it. It comes up in court hearings, trials and depositions quite a bit. Depending, of course, on the type of case.

Here’s a deposition excerpt that should be read aloud:

Q. Who else?
A. A man named Clyde Dodd.
Q. Dodd?
A. Yeah. He’s dead.
Q. Dead?
A. Very dead.
Q. He died? Dodd?
A. Clyde died.
Q. In degrees of death ...
A. He’s at the extreme.

I got the above from the late Judge Jerry Buchmeyer of Dallas, who wrote a column in the Texas Bar Journal for years. Here’s another:

Q. You said you had stress-related problems at work?
A. Yes, it was working to death. ... You just work and work and work and work. There’s no life. You can’t get out of it. There’s no air to breathe. Then you get hurt. I got hit with a pipe on my head, cracked my skull. ...
Q. Did you see doctors about that?
A. No. I just died. I’m dead, see? I’m dead. I’m a ghost, and I returned. ...
Q. You’re dead as we sit here today?
A. I’m dead.

Someone actually sent me the deposition excerpt for this next one:

Q. Do you recognize the person in Plaintiff’s Exhibit 8?
A. Mr. Edgington.
Q. Do you recall the time that you examined the body of Mr. Edgington at the Rose Chapel?
A. It was in the evening. That autopsy started about 8:30 p.m.
Q. And Mr. Edgington was dead at that time, is that correct?
A. No, you dumb &^%$! He was sitting there on the table, wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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