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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Courtesy calls

This week, my most courteous patient was:

NOT the 28 year old "I'm not taking these stupid antibiotics, why can't you give me an injection" schoolteacher with the urinary tract infection.

NOT the 54 year old "Stinking asian nurses don't know a bloody thing" mechanic with the cut on the hand.

NOT the 18 year old "I want someone who can actually speak real english, you go home to china" architecture student with the dislocated kneecap.

NOT the 67 year old "What do I pay my taxes for if I can't get what I want in hospital" ex-banker with pneumonia.

NOT the 24 year old "Why can't I be seen first why why why" law student with a sprained ankle.

My most courteous patient this week was a 35 year old gentleman, illiterate and untidy, with old, fading needle track scars over his arms. He was rigid with pain and his face was quivering, shiny with beads of sweat. His lip was bleeding where he'd bitten himself in a desperate attempt to stop screaming.

As I approached him, he pulled himself upright and said, grimacing with effort, "Doctor, please see that lady over there first - she's been vomiting and looks worse than me. I can wait another 20 minutes, I'll be alright. I'm not that bad."

He may be a drug addict, a school drop-out, a vagrant. His future is grim and bleak with the endlessness of detoxification units and reform centres.

But he still had more class than the diamond-encrusted gucci-clad PhD yuppie ("Can't you all see that I'm dying here?!") in the bed next to his.

9 Comments:

Blogger wahj said...

In extremis, we see true character - when things are at their worst, we see people at their best. For some people, that's when we also realise that their "best" isn't all that great.

2:42 pm  
Blogger Tym said...

Wow. Your stories always make me catch my breath.

10:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello, i surfed here by accident, and part of me thought oh dear i musn't read more, this is personal, but most of me was too fascinated to stop. i think the man wasn't just courteous, he is full of grace. how is he now and what was wrong with him?

2:48 am  
Anonymous Lynn said...

I can empathise with what you mean. I think like half of my patients think can I speak English? can I understand their problems, but I guess after a while when they realise that I can communicate with them effectively they do warm up and then start telling me about family and all and lots of irrelevant stuff.

9:47 pm  
Blogger cour marly said...

And people wonder why I ultimately decided not to be a doctor. I'd have killed my patients! Eee...

12:52 am  
Blogger tscd said...

wahj: Too true! I'm terribly grumpy when I'm ill.

tym: :) Thanks! I work very hard on my grammar. ;)

anonymous surfer: He had to go for emergency surgery for appendicitis. Last I heard, he was doing alright. I actually have alot more to say about this man, but I think it deserves it's own post. So, come back and visit me sometime and you'll see what I mean.

lynn: Yes, communication is very difficult for the Filipino nurses who work here - they are excellent nurses, but some of my patients have difficulty grasping their accents (although they do warm up to them after a while). In the A&E, I don't have the luxury of waiting for my patients to warm up to me, so I have to be thick-skinned and ignore their rude comments.

12:55 am  
Blogger tscd said...

cour marly: Yes. I do often feel like smacking them upside the head. But I'm not allowed. So I jab them with needles and don't feel sorry.

12:56 am  
Blogger stef said...

thanks for your post - i came by your blog through aromacookery. i think that that gentleman you served was well, a true gentleman :)

3:11 am  
Blogger tscd said...

stef: I thought so too. And you wouldn't be able to tell, just looking at him, the poor man.

4:18 am  

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