Monday 21 November 2016

Doctors make the worst patients

We apologise for the recent foray into politics and now return you to your regularly scheduled stupid stories.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, everyone knows the stereotype that doctors make the worst patients.  What's funny is that I thoroughly enjoy perpetuating the stereotype because it's absolutely goddamned true.  We do make the worst patients, and I freely admit it.  I don't know if it's because we think we're indestructible or if we just enjoy living in denial that anything could actually be wrong with us.  But whatever the reason, we suck.

I will also freely admit that I personally am a terrible patient.  Fortunately I do not have any chronic medical conditions, so I don't have any prescription medication to accidentally ignore and forget to take on purpose.  But I do tend to ignore my own health, instead focusing on the health and wellbeing of others.

But getting back to people who aren't me, DadBastard is a perfect example of a doctor not taking care of himself.  He willfully ignored MomBastard's advice (badgering) to get a screening colonoscopy at age 50 like his GP recommended ("I'm too busy" was his usual excuse).  He ignored my advice (annoying constant nagging) to do it at 55.  Finally at 60 he did it . . . and it was stone cold normal.  His colon was squeaky clean.  Fortunately he resisted rubbing that fact that in our faces.  Much.

Dr. Natalie (not her real name™)  is another perfect example.

Dr. Natalie is an ophthalmologist friend of mine whom I have known for nearly a decade.  She is very friendly, very smart, and very good at her job.  I hadn't seen her in quite some time when I ran into her recently.  As I gave her a hug I noticed the cast on her right wrist.  The trauma surgeon in me was immediately curious about what happened.

Apparently she had been running early one morning before the sun was up, and it wasn't bright enough for her to see the branch on the path.  She stumbled over it, landing on her outstretched right hand.  Completely plussed (what the hell is the opposite of "nonplussed" anyway?), she finished her 5 km run, and when she got home she noticed her hand turning purple and swelling impressively.  While she suspected it was fractured, she went to work anyway, where she had a full schedule of patients to see.  As the day went on, the swelling and pain got worse, so she suspected it was broken.  Unfortunately she had a flight to catch the next morning, so she thought, "Meh, I'll just wait until I get home in 3 days to get it X-rayed".

Since she had a cast on her right hand, you can obviously guess the outcome.

What I haven't yet mentioned is the fact that I "ran into" Dr. Natalie in her office on a Saturday morning, because I had called her and asked her to see me emergently.  Because my right eye was fucking killing me. 

For, uh, the past week. 

Yes indeed, the doctor in this story who is the worst patient is not DadBastard, not Dr. Natalie, but I.  Ha!  Gotcha!  Now that is a Usual Suspects-level plot twist!

Not really. 

My eye had been hurting for about 7 days.  It had started the morning after I had done some major sanding on a project I'm currently building, and it hadn't gotten any better.  It felt like something was in there, and flushing it and rubbing my eye hadn't helped either.  It wasn't hurting to the point of preventing me from working or sleeping, but it was definitely very irritating, nearly as irritating as antivaxxers (I had to squeeze that in here somehow).

What finally made me seek care was when I woke up Friday morning and the vision in my right eye was blurry.  SHITSHITSHITSHIT.  I don't know much about the eye, but I do know that is bad.

I finally broke down and consulted someone.  No, not Dr. Natalie, at least not at first.  Against my better judgment, I saw an emergency physician.  Now before you go and start accusing me of various things, I didn't want to, I had to.  It was also rather convenient, since I was on trauma call and in the emergency department/A&E anyway.  I found a doc I know and trust (relatively speaking) and told him of the foreign body sensation I was having in that eye, and he very nicely agreed to take a look.  He put some fluorescein dye in my eye, looked with his special scope, and saw . . . absolutely nothing.  No corneal abrasion, no foreign bodies, nothing.

I breathed a sigh of relief and then immediately realised how stupid that relief was.  If it wasn't a foreign body or corneal abrasion, what the fuck was it?  Retinal detachment?  Macular degeneration?  Some disgusting parasite?  Cancer of the eyeball?  Dry eye?

Ok, I admit didn't actually think of dry eye, because my Inner Pessimist was only allowing me to think of either life- or career-threatening maladies at that point.

The next morning my vision was just slightly worse in that eye, and the foreign body sensation was also a bit worse.  E-FUCKING-NOUGH.  I had had it.  I did the last thing I wanted to do - I called a colleague for a favour on a Saturday morning.  After I told Dr. Natalie of my symptoms (including the blurry vision), she very graciously and without any hesitation whatsoever told me to meet her at her office in an hour.

After she took a detailed history, she put the fluorescein dye in my eye again.  It took her exactly 1.272 seconds (I timed it) to do a rather impressive double take.

"Oh my god, how long has it been hurting?" she gasped.

A week, I told her.

"Doc (not your real name™), you have, let's see, one, two, three . . . SIX foreign bodies in there!  How the hell have you been working like this, and why the hell didn't you call me sooner?  Most people are crying and calling for emergency appointments with ONE foreign body, and you've been living with SIX of them for a WEEK??"

I let out a small, sheepish sigh of relief combined with a slight pang of guilt and a rather large pang of stupidity.

She very carefully removed all six shards of sawdust (yes, sawdust), and after completing a full eye exam she told me that my cup-to-disc ratio was perfect (HUZZAH!) and that there was no sign of infection (HUZZAH!).  She expected the pain to last for another day and my vision to return to normal a few days after that.

And there was the real sigh of relief.

It took one glorious night of 8 glorious hours of sleep for the pain to improve dramatically.  Four days after that my vision returned to normal, or rather whatever I had previously considered normal. 

I often say that any day you learn something is not a wasted day, and I definitely learned something that day.  Yes sir, this little episode taught me a very valuable lesson: wear goggles while sanding

What, you thought I was going to say "Be a good patient and see a doctor"?  Ha ha!  No way!

I'm indestructible. 


  1. Doc, thank you for returning to the quirky stories I enjoy so much.

  2. the quickest I have ever seen my wife get dressed was when I told her my back was hurting and I thought I should see a doctor about it.
    fortunately, the diagnosis was that it needed a week off; rather than that it needed to be excavated and rebuilt.

  3. But the Republicans are going to take away... oh, wait. Sorry. ;)

    I think most of us do the same thing when it comes to anything that isn't actively spurting blood across the room; we wait. When I have a dull headache that lasts a couple of weeks I figure I've pinched a nerve or pulled a muscle or am stressed out, and it will eventually go away. It always has. Actually, my first impulse is to just KNOW it's a ginormous brain tumor, and I refuse to go there, stressing myself out even more.

    I'm not sure I could ride out eye pain for as long as you did, but can appreciate the wait-and-see attitude.

    1. I can't ride out foreign bodies in my eyes. unfortunately, at this point, if I get any, I'd pretty much have to go to a professional - once I take my glasses off I can't see well enough to pick them out, myself.

      on which topic, glasses are great for getting a good look at what is about to swerve around them and go into your eye. face shields are my friend.

    2. Seriously. Every. Single. Time. I clean light fixtures, I get dead bug parts in my eyes. You'd think they'd bounce off the glasses, but they don't. Somehow, I get dead bug parts in my eyes even when I'm not looking up at the light. I have so had it with light fixtures.

    3. I am amazed at how much more incidental stuff I get in my eyes since I aged into wearing glasses.

    4. I think the glasses attract it.

    5. gotta be some kind of strange aerodynamics.

  4. They use needles to remove foreign bodies in the eye. Steady hands and you better not move. I had the procedure done for paint chips.

  5. Please tell us you're going to be a good boy and wear proper eye protection (not just glasses) from now on for your Dr. DYI stuff. One always hears about hands with surgeons, but I'm pretty sure they need their eyes too.

  6. And if you're using an electric sander, use hearing protection, too.

    1. Ken it can cause permanent hearing damage, despite seemingly nor being loud enough

    2. @Ken: What you said there, I heard it. :D

    3. @connor

      that was a "what, I cant hear you" not a "what I don't speak english."

  7. Doctors suck as legal clients, too. They're control freaks. They either don't want to admit that there's anything going on that they should pay attention to, even in the middle of a deposition, or they think they know better than their attorney, even in the middle of a deposition.

    Then again, if you're deposing a doctor for the other side, it can be quite entertaining. Frustrating, but entertaining.

  8. I had 'floaters' in my vision a couple years ago. Not being a physician, I visited the ophthalmologist just three or four days later. Goodness knows how long I would have waited if I'd had medical training!
    (Ophthalmologist said floaters could have been detached retina symptom and I should have visited hospital emerg dept the first day. Oops)

  9. Here's exactly the same procedure that they did did to me when paint chips got stuck in my cornea! A 24 gauge needle in the eye!

  10. I think my husband is the worst patient. Couple years ago he called me from his work to ask me to drive him to the ER. Of course I panicked,picked him up. He said he was having chest pain and shortness of breath. Got him to the ER. They hooked him up to various things. Doctor asked him how long he had these symptoms. My husband said off and on for months!!!! I said why didn't you tell me this??? He said he didn't want me to worry. Ended up needing 3 stents put in. Then 2 years later needed 2 more stents. Finally he quit smoking after this last hospital visit.

  11. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Trying out my new turkey fryer tomorrow. I hope it turns out good.

    1. remember to soak your turkey in water and freeze it solidly and then drop it in a brimful pan of oil.

      oh, wait - do exactly the opposite. fully thawed, patted as dry as physically possible, and know how much oil it will displace so you don't overflow the fryer.
      otherwise you will be getting a visit from my colleagues.

  12. There was a woman that lost her eye because a piece of glitter got in there.

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. It wasn't that people don't actually value their medical doctor-it was more that I valued my medical doctor.nzt48

  15. Another type of laser engraving for a personalized stethoscope is done on the chest piece. Your name can be laser engraved on the chest piece of most of the stethoscopes. uberdoco stethoscopes blog

  16. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a very well written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.


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