Friday, October 25, 2013

THE FIRST PATIENT


While revising some of my files I came across this post from 2011, made a few minor changes and decided to re-post it. 

It was an experience not to be forgotten.  We were in our third year and our small group was in a general medical clinic; we were to see patients, examine as necessary, and then report our findings and treatment plan to the medical resident or staff physician.  After all these years the specifics of the clinic are rather vague, but two things are still very clear to me.

It was hot and humid early September, and we were dressed per school requirements, shirt and tie plus the short white jacket that identified us as lowly students, recognized not only throughout the hospital but in the surrounding neighborhood.  I entered a small exam room (no air conditioning) and introduced myself to my patient, and elderly, rather wrinkled woman whose problem has been long gone from my memory.  What is not gone is the absolute, awful, knock you down, odor of her breath, enhanced no doubt by the heat and closeness of our quarters.  Unfortunately It was necessary for me to examine her throat, and when I approached her with tongue blade and flash light (trying hard to overcome basic physiology by only breathing out) she signaled me to pause for a moment while she removed a huge clove of garlic from her mouth which I swear was the size of a tangerine…Ok, maybe a walnut, but I can tell you this, even the most Italian of all Italians would have been done in by the dear ladies breath.  As for me, I did not get near a piece of garlic for days…Ok, maybe hours.

1 comment:

David C. said...

Very interesting. Some 30+ years after my third-year medicine rotation at the VA, I still find myself telling residents about patients like the alcoholic, cirrhotic Navy vet who we found standing in a pool of his own ascites on morning rounds when his umbilical hernia sprung a leak. The VA was quite a wellspring of stories.