I Know Him So Well

I traipsed into the hospital again this week as the recurring symptoms in my head had begun to wear me down. I was in need of reassurance and I knew that the surgeon would put me straight. After years of dealing with the infections in my head, we’ve got to know and respect each other well.

On entering the examination room, the surgeon asked if I would mind having two young medical students present while he examined my head. I was perfectly happy to agree to this, in fact I positively welcomed it. I knew from previous experience that it was likely to add an interesting dimension to the consultation.

While the surgeon was preparing the endoscope, I chatted to the two female students to put them at ease. I asked them what they thought of the new HPAT (Health Professionals Admission Test)* which was introduced last year as part of the entry exam for medicine. They reckoned the test had evened out the ratio of male/female students that succeeded in getting into medical school last year. In recent years, the percentage of students studying medicine has been 70/30 in favour of females. This would suggest that an aptitude test suits the male psyche better, while swotting for exams is more of a female forte. The surgeon then piped up and declared that if he or any of his colleagues were asked to sit the HPAT today, he reckoned they’d all fail. We all laughed at this concept.

The room went silent while the surgeon delved deep inside my head with the endoscope. Shortly afterwards, he emerged with a large lump of something horrible and announced triumphantly “that’s some bogey”. I’m beyond mortification at this stage so I just grinned over at the two girls who looked horrified on my behalf. The students looked on in silence as the surgeon and I continued to banter about the state of my head. The many years of treatment have left us both comfortable enough in each other’s presence, to be able to employ banter as a coping mechanism. The girls were not aware of my previous medical/surgical history and therefore had no idea that I knew this surgeon so well. The look of disbelief on their faces, was priceless.

When the surgeon had finished his task, he took photographs of the inside of my head and used these to reassure me about the cause of my present symptoms. It appears that the donor site used for the recent graft surgery, is slow to heal and is causing irritation to surrounding structures. My post-operative check-up in Nottingham next week, should elicit more information on this. The good news is that the graft continues to heal well.

Before I exited the room, the surgeon gave me a big grin as he explained to the students that I was no ordinary patient. “This is a very rare case”, they were told.  I grinned back and left him to explain.

*The HPAT allows all Leaving Cert students with over 480 points to apply for medicine. Entry is decided by a combination of CAO points and HPAT results, which examines spacial and logical reasoning, problem-solving and interpersonal skills.

With thanks to the Amateur Transplants for the parody.

In case you didn’t know… the ABC used in the above video, is a well-known mnemonic for AIRWAY, BREATHING and CIRCULATION. The ABC protocol exists to remind rescuers delivering emergency treatment to an unconscious or unresponsive patient, of the importance of airway, breathing, and circulation to the maintenance of a patient’s life.

11 Responses to I Know Him So Well

  1. JBBC says:

    Great post Steph – your blog should be required reading for med students! UCD Med Soc are actually hosting The Amateur Transplants in the UCD student bar on Monday 20th of April – just thought I’d mention that. Hope you are feeling better soon!

  2. Annb says:

    You could rename the blog the bogey report! Hope your head is feeling lighter!
    Thanks for the giggle – I needed it today!

  3. Bendy Girl says:

    I absolutely love the surgeon’s sense of humour…and I’m with you on the expressions on medical students faces…bless their innocence 😉
    Hope your check up in Notts goes well. BG Xx

  4. magnumlady says:

    It sounds like you have a lovely surgeon. It’s much better when you can have a bit of banter in hospitals 🙂

  5. Grannymar says:

    Glad it went well. Roll on Notts and thankfully the ‘Ash’ wave came this week so should be well gone by the time you need to fly

  6. Geri Atric says:

    LOL! It must have seemed a bit like the twilight zone to those kids. First there is the patient, talking knowledgeably on medical matters and putting THEM at THEIR ease, whilst remaining seemingly unphased at the prospect of having someone root around the inside of her head (!) – and then there is their boss – apparently suddenly completely losing his professional mind and to all intents and purposes embarrassing the hell out of the patient! Aargh!

    It is good news though to hear that the graft is healing well. Hopefully the donor site will soon follow. Good luck next week in Nottingham (duck)!

  7. Steph says:

    JBBC – I always feel deeply protective of young med students as I know only too well the hard road they have ahead. The hierarchy in medicine is something else.

    It’s interesting to hear that The Amateur Transplants are coming to Dublin. Judging by the live recordings I’ve seen on You Tube, it’s sure to be a raucous night.

    Annb – ‘The Bogey Report’ ROFL I love it 😆

    Actually, after we’d all recovered from the enormous bloody bogey that had been pulled out of my head, the surgeon continued to entertain everyone by telling us that in his speciality (Otolaryngology), he’s called ‘the nose picker’ by his contemporaries.

    I’ve since read that depending on the speciality (and the orifice), a doctor could be a ‘gas passer’, ‘nose picker’, ‘crotch doc’ or ‘rear admiral’ 😀

    Bendy – I too enjoy and appreciate his sense of humour but I was a little concerned that you guys might not find it appropriate. He has never crossed the line where the humour becomes disrespectful. When things are serious, I’m the one most likely to employ humour to cheer him and his team up.

    I’ve written about it here because I believe that it’s important to point out that surgeons are not gods. They appreciate the patients who poke fun at them.

    magnumlady – He is indeed a good guy and I know I’m very lucky to be under his care. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs together so it’s good to be able to laugh about it. I’ve met a few monsters in my time who scared the bejaysus out of me! 😀

    Grannymar – Thanks Missus! That thought struck me too when I heard the news this morning about the airport closures but I’m sure/hoping the ash cloud will have cleared by then. That is of course, unless the wind direction changes and it comes back again next week! 😦

    Geri – Thanks duck! You have us all very well sussed!

    I think it’s important for medical students to realise that patients are ‘real’ people and that consultants too are capable of coming out from behind their professional masks.

    Talk of the ‘bogey man’ (over at your place) and Annb’s comment above has given me great material for my next appointment with the surgeon in question. In light of his comment about being known as ‘the nose picker’, I look forward to telling him his contemporaries should be calling him ‘the bogey man’ 😆

  8. achelois says:

    Steph, I don’t doubt that your poor head could do with getting on with healing and invasive poking about is actually somewhat more stressful than you describe as well as the preceding symptoms requiring the attention of the consultant in the first place. I wish you luck with the Notts appointment but have no doubt that you could do without ‘all that’ too. In the meantime, so pleased the graft is taking but wonder if the site of graft is sore. When you are stoic I worry (in a bloggy way) the most. One day you will write I am sure – I am just bleep bleep bleep bleep off with all this and actually it feels like this…. to have what I have! In the meantime I expect nothing less than you reassuring both Consultant’s and med students and us bloggers that its ok to have a rare and debilitating condition! You would just not be you otherwise.

    Take care Steph.

  9. Baino says:

    I think I’d rather not know what they pull out of your nose or any other cavity but marvel at your sense of humour under duress!I know things aren’t as humourous as you portray them and hope that one day, you’ll feel well enough for a Skype chat and be able to say that you feel fine and mean it. Hugz from Oz

  10. Jenny says:

    Will you ever think of a bogey in the same way?
    I’m not sure I will! Great to see your own sense of humour once again Steph,I reckon those medical students will remember you more so than their average run of the mill patient, as I always think of your blog in the same way, not your average run of the mill!
    Best of Lucks in Nottingham, look forward to hering your news as to how things go!,
    talk to you again soon.

  11. Steph says:

    achelois – It takes one to know one!

    It’s easy to tell that you know exactly what it’s like to live your life with the constant disruption of your health/body letting you down.

    You are absolutely right that there’s more to the story. While I may appear stoical, underneath the surface I’m often paddling like mad. What you see and read on my blog is only the acceptance part of my coping mechanism.

    When I’m struggling with deteriorating symptoms and the knowledge that I’ll have to seek help (again!), I go through a process of anger and frustration (in my mind) that it’s happening again. Sometimes I’ll bounce this anger and frustration off those closest to me but much of the time I just go quiet until I have it sorted in my mind. It’s only when acceptance of the situation is reached that I feel like talking or blogging about it.

    This doesn’t mean that every time I go quiet, I’m struggling. When things are going well, I’m too busy enjoying life to want to blog about it.

    Baino – While I know it sounds revolting, it’s the reality of what I’m living with at the moment. What you have to realise is that the surgeon has been cleaning out my head almost fortnightly since this whole episode started last November. If we couldn’t laugh about it, it would be awful.

    Jenny – Thanks! This ‘bogey’ problem is a recent phenomena. While I’m used to my head blocking up with debris following surgery, it normally clears within days. This time however, despite a daily wash-out with a sterile solution, my head continues to crust up. I’m told it should settle down when healing is complete.

    My trip back to Notts next week is looking increasingly unlikely due to multiple flight cancellations. I could well end up being ‘volcanoed’ (as I heard someone else remark) 😀

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