Doctor Humour

Misanthropists dub medicine a dull and boring profession. My girlfriends from school tell me, “You deal with sick patients day in and day out. Isn’t it miserable?” Well, there might be some truth in that but I would still disagree. We have our lighter moments to break free from all the monotony and depressing truths. A colourful patient every now and then turns up to make our day!

I am continually amazed by the number of patients who become pale, sweaty and anxious when I approach them with a needle. In my work as a medical officer at a dispensary, I once had a military man who showed up for a blood test. The army man was making more fuss than I’d expect in a children’s ward and had to be comforted — and restrained — by the nurse. Trying to distract him, she asked him about his role in the Army. With a blush, he replied, “Bomb disposal!” And that was that.

Then there are hypochondriacs — annoying to the core but adding humour to our lives! I once had a hypochondriac visit me with his X-ray report. On finding the report normal, I told him, “I don’t know why, but I cannot see any evidence of disease.” The hypochondriac, who is always willing to help with his own treatment, had the audacity to tell me, “Have you thought of getting your eyes tested?” All I could do was crease my lips into a gentle smile and scribble on his OPD card, “Wishing you a speedy recovery from your imaginary illness!”

Then there are over-smart patients who indulge in self-diagnosis by reading up medical literature available online, thanks to WebMD and Mayo Clinic Diagnosis. A hyperactive mother of two came visiting me to the dispensary. On examining her son, I found symptoms of acute tonsillitis and prescribed an antibiotic course for a week.

She vehemently refused to put her son on the antibiotic and lectured me on the side-effects. She glorified alternative schools of medicine and explained to me the theory of how Chinese food is bad during winter. She went on and on before I asked her to leave. The same evening, I found her at a posh Chinese restaurant with her sons, gorging on noodles and manchurian. She was embarrassed to death!

I recently attended a three-day conference at Varanasi. In concluding his valedictory address, the convener, a senior medico, said the following: “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening to my talk. In fact, I would like to thank you from the full length of my vocal chords because I don’t like making anatomical mistakes by referring to the bottom of my heart which, as you know, is not the seat of thought, and cannot produce speech!”

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