The focus of this web site is medicine. In this blog, you’ll read about patient stories. The situations have been changed to be HIPAA compliant. Factual statements may or may not be true. I may change ages, gender or presenting complaints about patients. I may even entirely make up complete patient encounters from my fertile imagination. Trust me, if you think I’m writing about you, I’m not. There are billions of people in this world and readers send me stories about patients all the time. It isn’t you.
You’ll also read a lot about health care policy. I may throw in posts about life lessons, computers, and will even throw in family stories once in a while. If you’re looking for articles about politics, sports, or celebrities, you’re in the wrong place – unless the topics have some relationship to medicine.
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By Birdstrike M.D. Off I go to work a few shifts at a desperately understaffed rural hospital in a state far away. The rental car GPS leads me to the ED address and it’s not there. All that is there is what looks like a small supermarket with a funeral home next door. I see a security guard in the parking lot. He has a lump in his cheek and a badge that says “Sam.” I pull into the supermarket parking lot to ask for directions. “Sir, do you know how I get to Bumtruck Valley Hospital?” In a slow, deep, and nearly indecipherable drawl he answers, “You found it, Cowboy. Welcome to Bumtruck Valley Hospital.” “That’s not a supermarket?” I ask. “It’s not a market, and there’s nothin’ super about it, Shooter. Funny how they put it right next to a funeral home, ain’t it? Smart businessmen they are. Kind of a conflict of interest though, I’d say. Ha, ha,” he gurgles. “You workin’ here tonight?” “Yes, sir. I am,” I answer. “How much they gonna pay ya?” he asks. “Apparently not enough,” I conclude. “I know that’s right,” laughs “Security” Sam. “You won’t be back.” I park in the dirt lot and go in for my shift. There’s only one patient waiting: “5-year-old, headache, fever.” I walk in the room to find a 5-year-old girl laying on the stretcher in a fetal position. She is fantastically dressed with a beautiful, silk smocked dress, shiny gold-plated curls with a green bow to match her emerald eyes. A stark contrast is her mother who looks like she’s from a different gene pool altogether, sitting in the chair, dressed in pajamas. I introduce myself and raise my hand to shake the mother’s hand and she does the “pant-leg hand-wipe” maneuver. If you’ve never been a victim of this, it is when you go to shake someone’s hand, and rather than raising their hand to shake yours, they quickly send the hand down to their own pant-leg and proceed to very quickly wipe it on their leg, then quickly raise it up to shake yours. All in a split-second you find yourself shaking the hand of someone who felt it necessary to wipe something off of their hand before shaking yours. What it is that they attempted to wipe off, or whether they successfully did so or not, is yours to ponder for eternity. It’s an etiquette faux pas of epic proportions. “What brings you in here today, Suzie?” I ask, directing my question at the little girl herself, seeing what information she’ll give me before invoking Mom’s help. “My head hurts,” she answers, laying there in a heap, looking sick. “It hurts right here,” she says, pointing to the back of her head and neck. “And I feel real hot,” she says, sinking back onto the hospital gurney. Amazed at how well she’s answering my questions directly and to the point, I continue. She proceeds to tell me that the symptoms started a few hours ago, her mom has not checked her temperature, and she’s had no other symptoms except for feeling a little achy. Then, slowly rolling out of her mother’s mouth, in a deep drawl come the words, “Yuh, her neck is stiff, real stiff. She’s been actin’ like she’s dyin’. You know, LETHARGIC. Dyin’!” With that, she sticks her fingernail between her two front teeth, picks a piece of food out, holds her finger up to look at it, smells it, then puts it back in her mouth to perhaps…..eat it? Gross! Suzy proceeds to tell me that she lives with her mom, takes no medications, has no significant medical problems, has never had surgery, and has no allergies. Her vital signs are normal, except for a borderline temperature of 100.1o F. I proceed ...Read More »