“Doctor, I hear this buzzing sound in my ear every time the neighbours mow their lawn.”
I’m sure every doctor has a story to tell: a story about a difficult patient, a strange diagnosis or an embarrassing situation. But the real gems are the stories of patients presenting with odd complaints, and the ones with bizarre accounts of personal experiences.
Over the years I’ve heard my fair share of odd stories, comments and ideas. Some of them are hysterically funny. One of my favourite stories is of a young mother who brought her three- year old child to hospital with diarrhoea. The mother insisted that the child had tonsillitis. When I asked her why, she said: “Doctor, can’t you see the child’s lips are swollen, and I did biology till standard six, so I know.” When I asked her why the child had diarrhoea, she replied: “Oh, only because he’s sh*t scared of doctors.”
Snakes in hospital
For some odd reason encounters with snakes follow me around wherever I go. One morning while working in a trauma unit, a young man rushed in screaming his lungs out. In the midst of this hysterical outburst he kept pointing to his rear end, but neither I, nor any of the nursing sisters could figure out what she was trying to say. Eventually, after we managed to calm him down, he said: “There is this snake coming from my behind. I’m sh****ng snakes!”
I’m very scared of snakes myself, so I carefully approached his behind. And there is was – the “snake” he saw was actually the piece of black string that young men from some ethnic groups tie around their waist, which must have come loose and got caught between his buttocks.
Another snake story was anything but funny at the time. The ambulance brought in a young child who was apparently bitten by a snake while playing in the fields. When treating a potential snake bite, it is important to try and establish the type of snake involved.
I asked the mother if the child had told her anything about the snake. “O, dokotela, I don’t know, but I know the snake. I have it here, in my handbag”. And right there in the trauma unit, she opened her handbag and showed me the dead snake. “I went after it, and brought it with to show you.” Not my idea of fun!
Being George Clooney
Complaints from “down under” somehow always turns out to be problematic. For some reason most patients find problems in this area immensely embarrassing. I’ve learned over the years that vague headaches are often not the only and/or real problem.
One morning a lady in her fifties came to my consultation room complaining of a “vague headache”. After enquiring about the headache, I suspected that this was one of “those” cases. So, eventually I asked her if she had any other problems, perhaps of a gynaecological nature.
However, as it turned out, her “problem” was something of a completely different nature – curiosity, and perhaps a certain lack of intelligence. This was her answer to my question: “Doctor, my friend told me George Clooney was working here at the hospital. And when I saw you I know that she was speaking the truth. Why are you not making movies? And how come you speak Afrikaans?” (Perhaps she, and her friend, also needed to have their eyes tested . . .)
The things people do for love
Some of the most strangest things I’ve experienced as a doctor resulted from normal situations turning into something quite bizarre. One particular incident springs to mind.
While suturing the hand of guy I presumed to have been involved in a fight, I asked him why the cuts on his hands were so neat. To me, it didn’t look like “fist fighting” wounds.
His answer was unexpected, to say the least: “No doctor, I wanted to prove to my girlfriend that I am a real man, so I pretended I’d been in a fight. I’m not the aggressive type, so I cut my hands with a knife, drank two beers and told her I had been in a fight. And doctor, you need hurry up, please. She says she has a surprise for me when I get home.”
I won’t go into details about the incidents where of patients pinched my bum or told me that they loved me. One would swear real-life doctors were just as good looking as the ones in Grey’s Anatomy!
The day the music died
When I picked up a patient’s file and read “small, flute-like thing stuck in vagina”, I thought this might turn out to be one of the weirdest consultations of my life.
When I eventually examined the patient, I realised the Sotho-speaking nurse, responsible for the triaging, didn’t know the word “tampon” and tried to describe what it looks like.
Medicine is a serious matter, but every so often, in the most unusual situations, it is side-splittingly hilarious – and keeping a straight face can be very challenging!
This is a post by one of our contributors. Please note that it does not necessarily represent the views of Health24.
More columns by Dr Owen Wiese:
Apparently doctors are not human
TB: the side only doctors see
When a doctor loses a patient
Dr. Owen J. Wiese is Health24's resident doctor. After graduating from Stellenbosch University with additional qualifications in biochemistry and physiology he developed a keen interest in providing medical information through the media.