liquid's Blog

If God is watching us, the least we can do is be entertaining.
DECEMBER 22, 2012 6:04AM

The invalid inquisition

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The patient had viral diarrhea and vomiting; I wasn't keen on expressing solidarity by sharing his symptoms. This was the first time in nine months that I was entering a patient's room in the capacity of a visitor, not a tremulous third year medical student. Hence, I deemed this social visit an unnecessary risk. My father, a physician at this facility, was with me. He pushed the door open in the efficient manner all attendings acquire after a lifetime of medicaliciousness and walked in. I meekly followed.

I am, broadly speaking, on speaking terms with humanity. However, I prefer my dealings with people to be one-on-one. En masse encounters with hominids activate primitive alarm centres of my brain which make me feel like a geriatric tiger who, while pottering around in the jungle and minding his own business, bumps into a pack of Neanderthal gentlemen who have been chatting about the merits of tiger-steak for supper. There were at least ten relatives of the patient in that 10x12 room and you, dear reader, would be right in assuming that I was far from sanguine.

Fortunately, the natives of the room were friendly. I was not to be offered up in sacrifice to the local volcano god. Instead, I was offered sweetmeats of all sorts. Given my qualms about the microbiome of the room, I demurred and did my best impression of a piece of furniture in a surprisingly unoccupied corner of the room so as to avoid unwanted edibles and conversation.

My father, loving man though he usually is, decided to take a leaf out of Abraham's book and tried to sacrifice his son to an unknown deity. "Pranay is a budding doctor," he said without hesitation or remorse and then left the room on a "pressing matter." By comparison, Casca had been all but compassionate when he exclaimed "Speak hands for me!" and poked Caesar vigorously in the neck with his knife.

Twenty eyeballs commanded by sixty cranial nerves through one hundred and twenty extraocular muscles moved to focus on me. I smiled weakly. A sixteen year old cousin of the afflicted man promptly walked up to me and asked if I could take a look at her right hand.

Cuz: "It is excruciatingly painful. It starts hurting when I try this particular yoga pose."

I examined her wrist and found it to be doing as well as a wrist can. Nothing about it deserved censure.  If there were a club for strictly regular looking wrists, hers would not be left out of it.

Pranay: "Have you considered NOT doing the yoga pose?"

The cousin seemed taken aback by the simplicity of my advice. Hitherto, she had found this solution as arcane as quantum heterostructures.

Cuz: "Oh yeah.... but it also hurts when I write my homework assignments for school."

The etiology of her pain suddenly became clear. She had assignmentosis which has been hypothesized to be caused by a bacterium called Slackerella nonexistentii. I gave her the standard of care: put a warm compress on your wrist when it hurts and don't overstrain it with exercise. I thought I was in the clear, but the plot thickened.

Cuz: "But what do I do with the pain in my neck?"

I quickly examined her neck while fighting the urge to tell her that she was fast becoming a pain in mine.

Pranay: "Does anything make it better or worse?"

Cuz: "It becomes worse within 5 minutes of sitting on a desk to study."

Realizing that her condition was graver than I had imagined, I advised her to seek professional help. By this time, "the game," as Sherlock would say, "was afoot." Everyone in the room began asking opinions on mysterious maladies that plagued their existence. I answered questions on sore throats (my audience applauded my endorsement of hot chocolate as a therapy), recurrent "ear infections," immune systems that needed "boosting" (they don't), and the cleanliness of hospital floors (eww).

I was particularly struck by the patient's wife who was in her mid twenties. She first asked me about her knees which "snapped, crackled, and popped," but were otherwise entirely unremarkable. I assured her that this placed her within the bell curve for normalcy. Then, I showed her the synovial symphony of my own creaky (but normal) joints to reassure her that she was not on the fast track to a joint replacement surgery. After I was done speaking, she began systematically scrutinizing all her joints and muscles-- tapping this, palpating that, and squeezing the other.

Pranay: "Err...are you OK?"

PW: "Oh, yeah. Just checking to see if I had any other problems to show you."

Fortunately, she didn't.

Interestingly, the patient himself had zero complaints. He was a firm believer in King Solomon's idea: "this too shall pass." I was tempted to point out that "it" was already passing at a rather rapid rate from both ends of his alimentary canal. My father chose this moment, fraught as it was with further danger of inquisition by the invalid, to re-enter the room and rescue me from the inquisitive infirm. He could probably tell that I had reached the brink. As we walked out, I sputtered: "you...deliberately...marooned...pack of wolves."

He smiled: "Welcome to the profession."

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This is why I have been pretending to be a history student at parties.
Pranay, I am so happy to see you! Open Salon is quite broken as you may have noticed, and I can the door here only opens for me once in a blue moon.
I was so happy to see a post by you! Very funny, by the way.
Many people (myself included) are writing at Our Salon. Stop by.
Happy holidays to you~ (I would have written all this in a pm, but I haven't been able to open my pm's here in months.) :)