(June 2011) by Dr Clinton Anderson

I thought, given that we have collectively covered many medial topics, and to avoid overlapping of content, that I might share with you some of the lighter moments encountered in the practice of medicine. In these times, when our “stress-o-meters” are running high, perhaps a bit of laughter has therapeutic value.

First up – a funny, but poignant account. I recall an evening session in a busy urban A & E. It was a cold winter’s night and this often brought in a number of homeless folk seeking a hot meal and shelter. My next patient was clearly one of these unfortunate souls, and exhibited quite obvious signs of the ravages of alcohol abuse. It transpired that her concern was the presence of some blood in her vomit. This symptom triggers a line of enquiry which may shed light on the underlying cause, one of which may be alcohol overuse. Despite proceeding as tactfully as possible, she flatly denied any alcohol intake. Somewhat frustrated, and given the time constraints in an A & E, I abandoned this tack and moved on. “Can you give me some idea of how much blood you vomited?” I asked. “About a tot”, she said.

Secondly, a brief malapropism from the same A & E. A patient arrived in some distress. Clutching her throat, and with a strained voice, she said, “I swallowed a fish bone and I think it’s stuck in my sarcophagus”. (The “joke” might have been on me if it turned out that she had merely been displaying foresight!)

Finally, an illustration of the importance of communication. A female patient presented with recurrent vaginal thrush. I advised that treating both her and her partner might be the solution. Having already used over-the-counter creams, she expressed a wish for an alternative approach that would “work”. I supplied her with a script for two capsules, one for her partner and one for herself. At her next visit, I enquired as to her progress. “I’m better”, she said, “but my partner decided it would be too painful to insert his capsule”. Ouch!