First place: Michael Angel
Second place: Anonymous
Third place: Cindie Geddes
Honourable Mention: Dr. Michael Moreton
And now, on to the stories!
My only medical ‘detail’ story is really a small item that many others would miss, as it was about a young doctor, not a device or strange implement.
Back around 1999, I ended up in the emergency room when my ulcers ended up rupturing a blood vessel in the stomach. Once it was determined which end of my GI tract was bleeding, I was prepped for surgery to put a scope and a laser, I believe, down the esophagus to cauterize the leak.
I was very woozy, but remember being by myself in the hospital bed, late at night, feeling all alone. Two doctors, one crusty old resident and one young doctor, came to check on me one last time before I went in. I put on a brave face, but honestly, I was flat-out terrified. I’d never been so close to feeling out of control, completely at someone else’s mercy as to whether I’d make it through the night.
So I shivered. The older doctor noted this, saying something to the effect of “What’s the matter?” I replied, “I’m…just…cold.” He huffed, “It’s not that cold in here.”
The younger doctor didn’t say anything. He saw the look in my eyes, and simply reached out and took my hand in his. The very act, that ounce of compassion, instantly calmed me. He knew I was scared, knew I was shamming the ‘cold’, and let me know that though I wasn’t out of the woods, they were going to do their best.
I stopped shivering.
As you can guess, I made a full recovery, which included a regimen of drugs to kill H. Pylori. And though I never learned the young doctor’s name (I was too out of it that night to note his tag), I’ll never forget what he did.
– Michael Angel
Second Place (Anonymous)
Make Me a Woman
I recall as a teen contracting The Clap in the early ’70s, back when it was the second worst STD on the scene. (It was more fun to horrify each other with stories of Syphilis-inspired brain rot and madness.)
Although I made light of it, waxing lyrical about the “annoying drip, drip, drip of Gonorrhea”, and singing, “Gonorrhea, Why?” (to the tune of “Cara Mia Why?”) I was actually quite distressed, and I was a very shy young thing, too. I slipped into the VD Clinic as anonymously as possible (as I am now writing this post) and submitted with quiet dread to a pelvic exam given by a retired (back from the dead) male doctor with a hearing problem. Like going to Grampa for an oil check. (Oh, God.)
On my back, blinking at the bright light, trying my best to keep my mind elsewhere, I endured his fumblings with the speculum, which wouldn’t go in. Instead of taking it out and having a peek, he kept pushing on it, rather painfully from my end of things, as I, having analyzed the problem, called out, “I think I have a tampon in! I think I have a tampon in!” The nurse at his elbow lent her voice to mine. “Doctor, she thinks she has a tampon in!”
At last he heard us, stopped trying to shove my cervix up my nose from the inside, and allowed me to take the tampon out. It is no surprise that after the exam, when he got me to stand up and gave me a nice big injection in the butt, that I finally passed out cold on the floor.
Gonorrhea, why, indeed?
Third Place: Cindie Geddes
I went to my favorite doctor for an allergy shot. We got to talking and I mentioned some pain I was having in my abdomen. He felt the spot I pointed to and said it was likely some kind of calcium deposit (he probably said something more medical, but I’m not a doctor, so I don’t really remember) on my sutures from a hernia operation a year earlier. He used to be a surgeon. “We can just go in the next room, and I can get it right now,” he said.
“Can I watch?” I asked. I’m always fascinated by how my body works.
“Sure. We’ll use the vasectomy table.”
We went in, set the table so I was nearly sitting up, and went to it. He gave me some numbing injections, cut my ab open and dug around until he found the sutures. Sure enough, he found what looked like little rocks at the ends of my sutures. But cutting them off was going to be awkward because he was the one holding the retractor thingies.
“Can I help?” I was loving the whole thing. Couldn’t feel anything but tugging, but he was giving me the tour of what he was cutting and why, and it all looked pretty damn cool.
“Sure,” he gloved me up and handed me the retractor thingies, and I held them while he snipped the little rocks off. Then he let me feel the little rocks (still gloved), and that’s exactly what they felt like — rocks. Suddenly, my pain made perfect sense.
My recovery was the easiest I’ve had of any ab surgery (I’ve had, I think, nine) because I knew exactly what had been done and understood exactly what was happening during recovery.
I had a similar little surgery two years earlier. Cost: $7,000 (thank dog for insurance). With that one, I was knocked out, had the usual huge staff, waited in pre-op for three hours, post-op for six. Cost for this one: $700. Complete time from entering the vasectomy room to going home: 35 minutes.
My doc gave me his cell phone number to keep him posted on how my recovery was going and insists I use it still for any little question or concern I have.
This is all very very wrong in the US. I don’t use his name because I suspect he could get in big trouble. But it’s my favorite interaction with a doctor ever. And the easiest procedure I’ve ever had. I love this guy.
Honourable Mention: Dr. Michael Moreton
Dr. Moreton was gracious enough to contribute two stories.
The call came when I was in the Ante-Natal clinic at the United Family Hospital
in Beijing. It was from the Consular department at the American Embassy. A
pregnant American woman who was working with an aid agency in Tibet had
gone in to premature labor, they had contacted the assistance company to fly her
out but Washington had insisted that an Obstetrician go with the team. A wise
precaution. As, at that time in 2000, I was the only licensed western Ob in Beijing
there was not much choice of who should go.
I picked up an Emergency delivery pack from Labor and Delivery and the
appropriate medications that we were using to relax the Uterus from the
pharmacy and while waiting the SOS team to pick me up, did a little shopping.
We were using a military plane as they were roomier than any other planes. The
Chinese military is very business orientated and their ambulance planes were
available for hire.
We took off and had an uneventful flight and we landed in Lhasa. It was crystal
clear day and after the murky skies of Beijing the intensity of the light gave
everything film-set appearance. Unfortunately there was no time for sightseeing
and we drove to the hospital.
I was apprehensive; I had been to Chinese hospitals on evacuations before where
they were reluctant to release the western patient. Partly as it was a loss of
face but also a loss of a golden goose. This time it went without incident and
the staff were very accommodating. I handed out the products of my shopping,
canned hams, pantyhose and cigarettes always seemed to be useful for this part
of the ceremonies. The patient was pleased to see us and her contractions were
infrequent and mild. After monitoring things for a few minutes we loaded her
onto the ambulance and started for the airport. It was at this point that I started
to feel light-headed and a little breathless. I discounted this feeling that just
thinking about Mountain sickness had caused psychosomatic effects.
When we were on the runway loading the stretcher on which she was lying
was a difficult maneuver. It took four of us to do it as we had to raise it to chest
level to get it onto the plane and I was in a position where I took a lot of the
weight. When the stretcher was loaded, I stepped back and at that point it hit.
A blinding headache, a wave of nausea and a desperate feeling of shortage of
breath overwhelmed me. They bundled me onto the plane, shut the door, gave
me oxygen and within minutes I felt better. Luckily the plane had two beds, so the
patient and I lay alongside each other on the return journey. She was very calm
and reassured me that everything was under control.
Dr Michael Moreton is a Canadian OB/GYN who spent over nine years in China. He is now the International Medical Coordinator of The Bangkok Hospital, Thailand.
I was a House Physician at the Liverpool Royal Infirmary in 1964. A
patient was admitted with confusing symptoms and after investigation
it was found that he was suffering from chronic arsenic poisoning, as he
had been exposed to arsenic in his workplace for many years.
Even on the professorial medical service nobody had any experience in
treating this problem. We made rounds and presented the case to Dr
Sutton the junior consultant on the service. When we came to therapy
he turned to me and said “Phone Dr Preble and see if he has any
advice” This was quite logical Dr P was a Consultant Veneriologist and
had had experience in using arsenic in the treatment STDs before the
advent of penicillin. He surely would have seen overdoses and would be
able to advise.
I called him at his private clinic in Rodney St.
‘Good afternoon sir, I am Dr Moreton, a House Physician at the Royal
and I need your advice —- “ He cut me off.
“Don’t say a word on the phone, dear boy. Come and see me this
For more of Dr Michael Moreton’s tales, please read the Medical Post.