by Lucky Garvin
I’m on duty in the ER. Thirty inches of fresh snow on the ground. Police are asking that all unessential travel be avoided and patients are signing in left and right to be seen with chronic complaints: `M’back’s been hurtin’ fer nigh on thirty year. Thought I’d get it checked out!’
I tell you, Virginia could be in a nuclear confrontation with New Jersey, and folks would be coming to the ER for suture rechecks! But, stand to your philosophy, Gahv, each day brings its petty dust. Don’t take it too seriously.
A patient of mine did a speed-bump. Where was he hurting? He pointed behind him and said, “Right here at the neck of my head.” [Oh, you know where that is, right near the shoulder of your back!]
A patient stopped and stared at me like I was a urine sample. “Dr. Garvin! What happened?! You’ve gotten so much older! Did you have a stroke?! [Working at a medical facility, I’m sure someone would have told me.]
“Well, when was the last time you saw me?”
“About five years ago.”
“Did you expect me to get younger?”
“Well, no, but not to look this old!”
She later asked me if I was angry at her for telling me I looked so old. I said, “No. Happens all the time.”
But then, there are compensations: I stepped into the examining room. The little six year old girl squealed, “Oh goody. A boy doctor!” Thank you, Ma’am!
A physician of an earlier time enjoyed a reputation as a diagnostician. He put an enormous emphasis on the examination of the tongue. He would take it between his fingers and examine for lumps, bumps, contour and texture. Foremost among his diagnostic aptitudes was his uncanny ability to diagnose Typhoid Fever.
Occasionally he would diagnose the patient as presently suffering Typhoid. This he did as well as his colleagues. His most inexplicable talent lay in his ability to diagnose with a premonitory certainty, that the patient would come down with this fever in 7-10 days; and sure enough they did.
After some years, the physician himself was diagnosed as being a `Typhoid Mary’: a carrier of the disease who did not suffer the symptoms; those fingers of his; and all those tongues…
People wonder why I’m burned out:
The patient came for a return visit and told me, “I didn’t take those pills you gave me and I’m no better.”
It’s 4 AM. Three patients. One with a cat bite sustained at 6 PM the previous day. Dropped by for a tetanus shot.
5:30 AM: A lady with a knee injury. Three weeks ago. No increase in pain. She just got tired of it.
5:45 AM: The lady has a sinus infection. She was diagnosed one week ago. Took her antibiotics two days. Felt better. Quit them. The infection flared up again. Go figure. So, she came in to be seen. By ambulance.
6 AM: My legs got weak after my heart surgery three years ago.” “And you just now got around to coming in to be seen?” “Yeah.”
6:05 AM: He needed a refill on a medicine a physician had given him in California. Helped him breath. Oxygen tablets.
“You physician’s name?” I asked. “Dr. Somebody.” Well, that’s getting the ball over the plate, eh?
“Nurse,” I said, “look at the roster and see which of our physicians has the first name of `Dr.’”
A 39 year old fellow came in with heart pain. No past history of heart trouble. But, he’d been using cocaine. He was playing `the innocent’. “Oh, is coke bad for you?”
“No, sir,” I said, “It’s one of the four basic food groups.” The other three are: Mellow Yellow, sun-flower seeds and trail mix.
I went in to see a fellow who happened to be a bilateral leg amputee. He told me he worked as a stand-up comedian. [True.]
Look for Lucky’s books locally and on-line: The Oath of Hippocrates; The Cotillian; A Journey Long Delayed.