Dr. Who Do You Think You Are

| USA | Working | June 24, 2013

(I am a medical lab scientist. A doctor has requested an ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) test and marked it STAT. Though STAT means “now,” ESR is defined as the distance that the erythrocytes settle in one hour and our lab does not have the capability to alter that time.  A doctor calls on the phone.)

Me: “Hematology central lab. My name is [name], and I’m a medical lab scientist. What can I do for you?”

Doctor: “I requested a stat. It’s not back and it’s been 35 minutes.”

Me: “Okay, can I have the accession number so I can look that up for you?”

Doctor: *gives me the number*

Me: “Okay, I see the problem.  We are processing that stat, but the procedure is not completed yet.  It’s an ESR and we aren’t going to be able to get that to you for at least 45 more minutes.”

Doctor: “But it’s stat!”

Me: “I understand that, and we are processing it as such.”

Doctor: “I went to medical school, where they taught us that stat means ‘now.'”

Me: “And I went to college in MLS where they taught me that, too.  But we simply cannot speed up the actual procedure.  It’s impossible.”

Doctor: “If I had wanted it an hour and a half from when I sent it to you, I wouldn’t have put stat on there.”

Me: “I don’t mean to sound presumptuous, but do you know what an ESR is?”

Doctor: “Of course I do. It’s a test that indicates inflammation.”

Me: “I didn’t ask you knew what it meant.  I asked if you know what it is.”

Doctor: “Of course I do.  I’m a doctor.”

Me: “Then you would know that ESR is a measure of sedimentation in the space of an hour.”

Doctor: “Well, here’s a novel idea.  Settle it for ten minutes and then multiply.”

Me: “It isn’t linear. There are testing systems and chemicals that can speed it up, but we are a rural hospital and we don’t have access to those.  It will take the hour to run the test, as well as the time it took to set up the test, enter the accession data and then the interpretation time.  It was started as soon as we received it, and we’ll process the results as soon as we get them.  But I’m sorry that we can’t get it sooner.  I understand it’s important, but I can’t change this.”

Doctor: “Make time go faster, then.”

Me: “…I can’t do that.”

Doctor: “I’m a doctor and I told you to!”

Me: “The only way that I know of making time go at a different speed is Lorentzian contraction.  Since I am bound by the laws of physics, and don’t know how to bend space like that, I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait.”

Doctor: “But I’m a doctor.  I told you to do it faster!”

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Stupidity Is A Forgon-orrhea Conclusion

| Arizona, USA | Working | June 22, 2013

(It’s the mid-1950s at a military base. My mother-in-law has taken one of her daughters, 10 years old, to the hospital because she has an infection.)

Hospital Staff: “Well, your daughter needs penicillin, but I can’t give you any.”

Mother-in-law: “What? Why not?”

Hospital Staff: “It’s in short supply. It’s under lock and key and we can only give it out under special circumstances. But, if… um… if you sign this paper, I can give it to you.”

Mother-in-law: “And what’s that?”

Hospital Staff: “It’s a form saying your daughter has a sexually transmitted disease.”

Mother-in-law: “What the [expletive]?!”

Hospital Staff: “I’m sorry, but that’s they only way I can let you have some.”

(My mother-in-law storms out of the hospital and directly to the base commander’s office. She barges her way into the office and explains, in no polite terms, the indignities of being asked to sign official medical records attesting that a 10 year old has syphilis. She got the medication without signing.)

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Epic Pale

| Douglas, Isle of Man | Working | June 21, 2013

(Note: I am 12 weeks pregnant. I am also very naturally pale.)

Nurse: “Okay, so all your blood work came back fine. However, I see that you’ve not been tested for anemia? ”

Me: “Not since being pregnant, but I’ve been tested a few times before because I’m pale but each time it comes back negative. It should be in my medical file.”

Nurse: “Well, anemia can develop during pregnancy, so we’d best check you just in case.”

(They run the test and of course it comes back negative. I return to the hospital four weeks later for a check up.)

Nurse: “Okay, your file says you’ve been tested for anemia but it was negative. I’d like to test you again because there is a chance that the results are wrong.”

Me: “I’ve been tested for it quite a few times. I’m not anemic. ”

Nurse: “Well, I’d prefer it if we make sure.”

(They run the blood test again, and again it comes back negative. I come back to hospital again four weeks later for my 20-week scan to check on the baby’s development and its gender.)

Nurse: “Okay, your file says you’re not anemic, but I really think you might be so I’ll order a blood test.”

Me: “I’ve had two blood tests for anemia in the last eight weeks. I’m not anemic; I’m just really pale.”

Nurse: “No, no, you can’t be that pale and be fine. It’s not natural. We’ll run a blood test.”

Me: “I’ve been tested a few times before my pregnancy and I was tested again eight weeks ago and AGAIN four weeks ago. Trust me: I’m not anemic.”

Nurse: “Well, better safe than sorry.”

(They take my blood and I’m about to go in for my scan when my mum finally shows up.)

Mum: “Sorry I’m late. Have you gone for your scan yet?”

Me: “No, just about to go in.”

Nurse: “And who are you?”

Mum: “I’m her mother.”

Nurse: “OH! You’re really pale too. You might not have anemia then. You might just be naturally pale.”

Mum: *to me* “Haven’t you been checked twice already?”

Me: “Yeah, they’re trying it a third time.”

(My mum tuts and we go in for my scan.)

Nurse: “Okay, looks like your baby is a girl. Congratulations!”

(My blood results came back, and believe it or not they were negative for anemia. Also, my baby turned out to be a boy!)

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Making A Spectacles Of One Self

| Chicago, IL, USA | Right | June 21, 2013

(I am working in the emergency department. I am tending to an elderly woman who is accompanied by her middle-aged daughter. The woman’s daughter has just sent a text.)

Daughter: “Well, I hope he can read what I typed, because I can’t see anything without my glasses.”

Mother: “You do know that you have a pair of glasses on your head, don’t you?”

(A look of embarrassment crosses the woman’s face, and her mother bursts out laughing hysterically. I smile and turn to the mother.)

Me: “It’s nice when someone else does that for a change, isn’t it?”

(The mother has a big smile on her face.)

Mother: “Yes, it is!”

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Their Brains Aren’t Running At Full Tilt

| NC, USA | Working | June 19, 2013

(I’m 13 and have been in a motor vehicle accident. I’ve been bedridden for nearly four weeks and have just had surgery on a broken leg. I’ve also had abdominal surgery and two cracked vertebrae, which requires a back brace whenever I am out of bed. I can barely sit up without support, let alone stand or walk, and I am under very strict orders to not put any weight on my broken leg. On this day, I’ve been all trussed up and taken to x-ray to see how the back brace is working. I’ve already almost passed out once on the way down from being unused to sitting upright, and the nurses have left me parked several feet from the x-ray machine.)

Resident #1: “Okay, we need you to walk over here and stand while we take an x-ray.”

Me: “You want me to what?”

Resident #2: “Walk over here and stand up long enough for us to get a good picture of your back.”

Me: “I’m not supposed to put any weight on my leg.”

Resident #1: “So, don’t.”

Me: “You want me to hop. Across the room. And then stand. For as long as you need.”

Resident #1: “Exactly.”

Me: “…I don’t think so.”

Resident #2: “Well, we have to get a picture of your back to see if the brace works.”

Me: “And you’re not going to get it that way because I’m going to be flat on the floor. Every time I stand up, I pass out.”

(At this point, I look at the x-ray table and have a thought.)

Me: “Does that table tilt?”

Resident #2: “Yes.”

Me: “Then why don’t we put me on there, raise it as far as I can stand, and adjust the x-ray parallel?”

Resident #1: “That’s silly.”

(Several minutes pass, in which I continue to refuse to hop one-legged across the room.)

Resident #2: “I’ve got it! We’ll put her on the table and tilt it!”

Resident #1: “Brilliant!”

(Despite warning them again to raise the table slowly, they residents raised it straight to vertical right off, and were surprised when my blood pressure plummeted and I passed out! Resident #2 actually scolded me for causing an inconvenience!)

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