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Doctors, nurses, and staying healthy

Good Thing For The Eardrum Because It’s All Clear After That

, , , , | Healthy | April 2, 2022

This story was told to me by my partner, who works as a medical assistant at a walk-in clinic.

A patient has come in for an ear-syringing (flushing with warm water) because her ears are blocked. My partner gives her a little cup to hold under the affected ear to catch the water that comes out. 

Suddenly, the patient has a question.

Patient: “Wait. Shouldn’t I be holding this under the other ear?”

Medical Assistant: *Pauses* “No?” 

Patient: “Well, isn’t the water going to go through to the other side?”  

My partner responds after a lengthy pause, dying inside.

Medical Assistant: “No, ma’am. The eardrum will block it and it will come back out the same ear.”

Patient: *Suddenly embarrassed* “Oh, right.”

She stayed quiet for the rest of the procedure. I’m sure it was just a “duh” moment but it makes for a great story!

A Test Of Patients And Patience

, , , , , , , | Healthy | March 30, 2022

I am a medical assistant. The clinic I work in, like most clinics, has a specific area for patients who are symptomatic for a certain respiratory illness. They literally are supposed to enter through a side door and sit in a separate waiting room entirely, and this waiting room is connected to two conveniently semi-isolated exam rooms that are only used for sick patients.

There is a screening desk at the entrance to the main clinic where the patient or other guests are asked if they have symptoms, are a close contact, or are diagnosed with said illness. Then, the PSRs confirm again that the person checking in doesn’t have symptoms. Anyone who is symptomatic is directed to enter through the side door.

Cue this patient. She comes in for what should be a follow-up appointment, but instead, she wants to talk about her ear infection for the last week and her migraines for the last four days. During my intake, she mentions that she thinks the migraines are from allergies, which I note, but still, it’s nothing suspicious. Then, she coughs a deep, phlegmy cough. Okay, she smokes quite a bit, so I’m hoping it’s just a smoker’s cough which she does have documented in her chart. I take her vitals, and her heart rate and blood pressure are abnormal, which I consider to likely be related to the headaches. I ask her if she’s feeling symptomatic, to which she replies nonchalantly, “I am feeling a little under the weather.”


I leave the room, my intake done, and relay this mishmash of vague symptoms to the doctor and suggest we test for the illness. She agrees but seems unsure at first, so I obtain the necessary swabs for a rapid and a send-out test while she dons personal protective equipment and talks to [Patient] about her concerns. When she is done I go back in, now garbed in a disposable gown, mask, face shield, and gloves, but wondering what’s the point since I was already exposed for over five minutes? I collect the samples, leave the room, and then go and start the rapid test. The test is supposed to be given a full ten minutes, but after four it is absolutely clear that it is positive.

I use our messaging service to tell the provider. She says she strongly anticipated this result after talking with [Patient], and then she discussed this with her. She prescribes [Patient] some medications to ease her symptoms and an antiviral specific to the illness, we wish her well, and she leaves.

Apparently, [Patient] told the doctor while they were first discussing her symptoms that she didn’t think she had the illness because she didn’t have a sore throat.

And thus ends my tale of why I will be using at-home tests frequently over the next two weeks until I either confirm the illness or I pass the timeframe in which I could expect to be sick.

It’s Nothing To Be Sniffed At

, , , , | Healthy | March 28, 2022

Being in veterinary medicine, it’s a bit of an occupational hazard that you end up with pets that are disabled or ill in some way. Such was the case with the receptionist’s cat. He came in as a well-loved barn cat with a diagnosis of FIV. Very similar to HIV in humans, it’s not the virus that gets you, but the opportunistic illnesses you’re vulnerable to. Life in a barn was off the table, and the receptionist had no other cats in her house, so off Kitty went to live a spoiled house cat life.

A few months down the line, the receptionist calls on the drive-in to tell the technician Kitty’s been sick and she’s bringing him in. The tech goes into whirlwind mode, setting up oxygen and getting the IV pump set up, and hits the parking lot running, swooping the cat carrier out of the receptionist’s hand.

About this time the vet arrives and says:

Vet: “Isn’t that Kitty? What’s going on?”

Tech: “I don’t know, [Receptionist] says he’s been seizing all night!”

In walks the receptionist, who says:

Receptionist: “No, I said he’s been sneezing all night.”

Professionals Are Scary

, , , , | Healthy | March 27, 2022

Growing up, I had asthma problems and would spend an evening in the hospital about once every other year. I grew used to the atmosphere around medical professionals. But being bad at reading subtleties between “professional demeanor” and “serious case,” I became a joker. If I could make the doctor or nurse laugh? I knew they weren’t going to come back with a dire prognosis.

One year, I went in because of a suspected seizure. It was very scary. I had to run a gamut of tests and I was put in a room in neurology. The next day, the neurologist walked in.

Neurologist: “I’ve looked at all your scans, and I can’t find anything.”

Me: “Odd. I’m sure I had a box of rocks in there. Any idea where it went?”

The neurologist froze for a moment, turned, and walked out of the room. This left me terrified. No chuckle? This was seriously bad, then, right?

A nurse rushed in and came to my bedside, asking, “What happened?” I relay the events.

Nurse: “Oh, good. I just saw him leaning against a wall in the hallway covering his face and shuddering. I thought he was crying.”

Me: “Is he trying not to laugh?”

Nurse: “Yeah. He doesn’t like appearing ‘less than professional’ in front of patients.”

We Don’t Talk About Cujo

, , , , | Healthy | March 25, 2022

At the veterinary hospital we frequent, you are addressed by your pet name; e.g., my husband and I are Mr./Mrs. Cherry, after our cat. When the vet is ready for you, the receptionist will call out “Mr./Mrs. [Pet]!” and you can go in for a consult.

One day, we have a fellow pet parent who enjoys making fun of people’s choice of pet names as he waits for his own, particularly of small pets with tough-guy names – Terminator, Darth Vader, etc.

The first pet is called and it’s a miniature Doberman Pinscher called Killer. The wannabe comedian does his whole schtick of making fun of Killer for having a tough name and being tiny. Nobody is amused.

The second pet is Thor, a grey toy poodle. Cue the dude and his comedy routine. By now, the whole waiting room is dreading the next client.

The next pet called is Cujo. The dude turns around and right in his face is the largest Newfoundland Shepherd I have ever seen. It’s easily the size of a young bear, for those who have never seen the breed.

Now, normally, they are super gentle, but there is something wrong with the dog’s leg because it’s bandaged. When the dude turns around in his chair to make fun of Cujo, he is greeted with a deep, warning WOOF. He turns white as a sheet and just sits there, staring at the dog and possibly hoping he won’t get eaten.

There is light laughter from the rest of the pet parents waiting in the room. We never hear a peep out of the guy again until his own dog is brought out of the grooming section of the hospital. Serves him right.