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Sunday, May 22, 2005


Throughout my education, teachers/lecturers/professors have told me time and again that I am part of the elite, the top 10% of the population, the brains of the country. I never believed them.

Of course there are the members of our society who are born with an inherited mental handicap (eg. downs syndrome)...but other than that, I figured that most people were clever in their own way, and a person's intelligence cannot be measured by looking at what school they went to or what profession they are in.

Nobody likes being spoken to in a patronising manner or treated as if they are feeble-minded children. We laugh at those manufacturers who print 'Caution: Contents May Be Very Hot!' on the plastic caps of Starbucks takeaway cups. "Why state the obvious?" we scoff, "We're not *stupid*".

Since I started work, I've tried my best to treat people with dignity and respect. But even so, I have really met some shockingly *stupid* people, who have made me realise why doctors are considered part of the intelligensia.

Consider this conversation, I had a while ago with an SSP (shockingly *stupid* person) -

Me: Thank you for coming in today for your Water-Deprivation Test. Have you had the test explained to you?

SSP: Oh yes, the other doctor gave me a leaflet.

Me: Okay, well, I know you've already read the leaflet, but I still need to explain to you and make sure you understand exactly what we are doing. Is that okay?

SSP: Well...okay.

Me: You can have anything you want to eat and drink until midnight tonight. After that, you must not eat or drink anything that is liquid or contains water. So no water, milk, tea or coffee. You can have dry foods to eat if you are hungry. But nothing that contains water, so no vegetables or fruits. I will be along every hour to take blood and urine samples for testing. The test will last until X hrs. Here's a timetable so you can follow what we will be doing. Okay?

SSP: Okay.

Me: I need to make sure that you are 100% clear with what I've told you, so is it alright if I ask you to tell me what you understand that we are going to do tomorrow.

SSP: I'm having a water deprivation test, so I can't have any water past midnight tonight.

Me: That's right. So do you have any questions?

SSP: Yes. I usually have a cup of tea in the mornings, so can I have that then?

Me: Well, no. You will have to skip it just for tomorrow.

SSP: But I *always* have tea in the mornings.

Me: Yes, but tea has water in it, so you can't have it tomorrow because you're having a water DEPRIVATION test.

SSP: Well then can I have a bit of milk with my cereals?

Me: No. Milk has water in it.

SSP: What about orange juice?

Me: NO. You need to avoid anything with water in it tomorrow.

SSP: So I can't have anything to drink? Not even a tiny tiny sip of tea?

Me: NO! No tea, coffee, milk, juice, water or soup. No sips of anything. It's a water DEPRIVATION test. It's only a few hours long, you know, and you can drink as much as you want later.

SSP: What about some salad?

Me: NO!!! Salad has water in it. No salad! And no fruit either!

SSP: well, this is no good at all is it? Not being allowed to have anything to drink. It's torture!

Me: Ma'am, you've come in for a WATER DEPRIVATION test. The whole point of it is that you don't drink any water...

-end of conversation-

The next morning, she was yelling at the nurses because they wouldn't give her any tea, and I had to go through the same palaver all over again.

I couldn't believe anyone could be so shockingly *stupid*. It was really frustrating.

Then I realised that I can't expect everyone to think like myself. Even a concept like 'water deprivation' that seems so simple to myself, could be difficult for somebody else to understand. What I really need to do is exercise a little more patience.

Or just grit my teeth and try not to whop them upside the head.



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