Here are some funny moments which are true medical experience submitted to the STITCHES magazine. Special thanks to Dr. John Cocker for his kind permission to use the material here. Click here for subscription information.
As a medical student, my first clerkship was obstetrics at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. I recall eagerly donning a mask and gown as a woman in labour was wheeled into the delivery room. I timidly proceeded to take my place behind the obstetrician, resident and intern, craning to get a good view.
However, to my disappointment, I was directed to the head of the table. A nurse told me to look in the mirror to observe the birth. I felt relieved, assuming that the medical students must be so placed in order not to get in the way.
Then I was instructed to hold the patient's hand. I felt a little uncomfortable as I complied, but I supposed this was a lesson in bedside manners. The patient seemed reassured as she firmly squeezed my hand.
After the birth of the baby, I was asked if I wanted to cut the umbilical cord. I was delighted, thinking this the kind of handson experience that medical students got from their rotations in the hospitals.
After successfully completing the procedure, I was told to kiss the mother! I stood frozen in disbelief as everyone encouraged me to proceed. Extremely embarrassed, I brought my masked face several inches from the patient's cheek before I escaped outside feeling totally dumfounded.
In the corridor, a man in mask and gown was waiting nervously. "Can I go in now?" he asked me, and I suddenly realized that everyone, including the patient, had mistaken me for the baby's father.
A colleague of mine, who shall remain nameless, was asked by his wife's luncheon group to be their guest speaker one month.
His wife was skeptical but asked bim what he intended to talk about. When he decided on water-skiing, she told him indignantly that he didn't know the first thing about it, and when the day came, she muttered as he was being introduced that she didn't intend to sit there and listen to him make a fool of himself. She retreated to the lobby forthwith.
Well, it appears that when my friend arose to speak and looked around at an obviously bright, young and interested group of people, he felt a sudden wave of insecurity, despite his research into water-skiing. So he decided at the last moment to talk about something he really understood - sex.
He gave an excellent presentation, drawing ad lib from his experiences in gynaecological practice, and the ladies were delighted.
They rushed out to the lobby afterwards and enthused to his wife about how great he was as a speaker and how well he'd covered the subject.
She snorted in disbelief. "For heaven's sake!" she said. "He's only done it twice and he fell off both times!"
We won't let either of them forget it.
As a fourth-year medical student and aspiring family physician, I was working in the Family Medicine Clinic at the Kingston General Hospital. My patient was a downcast, middle-aged woman attending for her annual physical.
She'd been in a few times before, but background information was scanty, so I started a comprehensive workup: past medical history, family history, systems review, the works.
When I got to the social history, she revealed that she had a mentally handicapped son. As she described the difficult life of caring for him, her voice and posture told of her sadness. She'd struggled for years, but eventually, "It was too much for me and I had to put him in Smiths Falls" - the Rideau Regional Hospital just outside that town. "He was there for several years."
I told her that I understood how difficult her life had been. Impressed with my keen ability to pick up on the nuances of her works, expression and posture, I asked, "I notice you speak of his stay in Smiths Falls in the past. Is he not still there?"
I expected to hear the unfortunate fellow had left this vale of tears.
"Oh no!" she said, brightening immensely. "He moved to Ottawa and got a job with the government."
I have often wondered at the beautiful clarity with which the eyes of a three-year-old can view the world, and how clouded our vision becomes with age. Particularly in medicine, we tend to lose that naivete that once kept our eyes so clearly seeing.
My son pointed this out to me a few years ago, on a trip to Science World in Vancover, where there was a display with a human skeleton. My son, three years old at the time, was quite interested. He found a magnifying glass and proceeded to examine the skeleton in great detail.
The next time I glanced over at him, he was lying down next to the skeleton, chatting away with it. Finally, he put down the magnifying glass and said to me in all sincerity, "You know, Mom, I think he's dead."
My son the pathologist.
For many years, our small community hospital has been welcoming second-year medical students for what is, for some of them, their first experience to clinical medicine. On their particular day, while I was giving anaesthetics, a quiet young man was brought into the O.R. for what was obviously his first visit to the world of the surgeon.
The gynaecologist who was operating that day was a rather pompous Englishman who took great pains to teach students about the correct way of examination. He'd just completed a D&C and, turning to the student, said, "Well, young man, have you ever done a pelvic exam?"
There was no answer, as the student was obviously rather embarassed to be asked that question in front of all the staff.
"Come, come, sir, have you or haven't you done an internal examination?"
A soft timid voice eventually responded:"Well, sir, not professionally."
During my internship, I was doing a rotation in internal medicine. Part of my job was to go down to the Emergency and assess and admit those patients who required admission. One late evening, I was referred an elderly gentleman with a pneumonia. He was a quite confused but, being keen, I pressed on to get the entire history.
It was only during my social history that I realized that I might be missing something. I asked him if he had any children. His answer was, "No." Then, after a couple of moments of thought, he added, "But my son does."
This story was told to me by a mother of several children of various ages.
Apparently, when her oldest daughter began dating, she took her to the doctor to be put on birth-control pills. One day a little while later, the daughter came downstairs very distressed by the fact that a number of her pills were missing from the dresser drawer where she kept them.
All the other children denied knowledge of the crime. Finally, the mother sat all the kids down in the living room and told them very seriously that she wasn't so much angry with the offender as worried, since the number of pills that were missing could be harmful if taken all at once.
At this point, little seven-year-old Jimmy began to cry.
"Did you take those pills?" asked his mother.
"Well, why would you do such a thing? You could get sick!"
"But, Mommy, I didn't want to get pregnant!"
As an otolaryngologist, I met an elderly lady who'd had a cold three or four weeks earlier, during which she'd developed sensation of blockage of her ears.
Serous otitis media was readily diagnosed by otoscopy and, given the recent onset, I suggested simple observation. The patient seemed very disturbed by the discomfort of her blocked ears, and returned to my office two weeks later, and again another two weeks after that, this time being more forceful in her directive to me to "get on with it and do something about it."
The patient's tone wasn't vehement, but I couldn't help saying, "I've tried, Madam, to do what's best for you, and yet I have this sense that you're unhappy with what I've done so far for you."
At that very moment, her husband stood up and said, "It's funny, Doc, I've lived with her for 11 years and I still have the same feeling!"
One very busy day in the office, with all the examining rooms full, the waiting room full and, of course, the phone ringing urgently, I had the patient all ready for her paps and pelvic examination. At the propitious moment of insertion of the speculum, I said, "Say 'Aah.'"
"What did you say?" she replied.
There's no graceful way out of that situation.
This story begins, as many others do, in the Emergency Room. I was trying to catch a few minutes' sleep when that inevitable 3 am call aroused me.
"There's a student here," the duty nurse informed me.
"Oh oh!" I thought. There's a small university in my town, and the students always manage to do something to themselves during the early morning hours.
"What's his problem?" I asked.
"Low back pain," the nurse replied.
"God," I though, rubbing the sleep from my eyes as I stumbled towards the E.R.,"he's probably had it for months."
I arrived to find a well-intoxicated 19-year-old with back pain of recent onset. It seemed he'd been drinking with some friends in a room on the fourth floor of one of the residences when he'd accidentally broken a bottle in the corridor. This posed a problem for him as he was already on probation for alcohol abuse. If the Resident Assistant found him drinking, he could face expulsion.
It was then that he had a brain wave: he would escape before the R.A. arrived. Dashing into an empty room, he stripped the bed and tied all the bedclothes together. Then he opened the window and climbed onto the ledge of the fourth-storey window. Holding tightly to his makeshift rope, he lowered himself out of the window.
The next thing he knew, he was standing on the ground, leaning against the building, with a sore back. In his haste to escape, he'd neglected to tie the end of the rope to anything!
Fortunately, and amazingly, his only injuries were some abrasions to his hands and a mild compression fracture of T12. The injuries to his pride and reputation were considerably more severe, if less obvious.
During my internal medicine rotation in my internship year in a hospital in southern Africa, there was an old lady who was required to have her fluid balance closely monitored.
She was seen and examined on a regular basis during the daily ward round ritual and appeared to be doing quite satisfactorily. After she'd been in hospital about one week, I was required to present her case to the esteemed professor of medicine, who asked her how she felt she was doing.
"Very well, thank you, Professor," came the reply. "But... tell me, how much longer do I have to go on drinking my own urine?"
After much interrogation and many red faces, it was discovered that one of the new student nurses has misunderstood the order for fluid input, which read:"200 ml + previous day's output."
We all tend to mumble into the dictaphone from time to time. The resulting typos can be benign, humorous or downright hysterical.
A colleague of mine is in the habit of putting a dilateria stick in the cervix prior to doing a D&C. Imagine his surprise when he read an operative report which detailed the insertion of his "deleterious dick" into the patient's cervix the night before surgery.
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