Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I'm not a doctor in real life but I do play one at home. Much to the chagrin of my physician husband, I sometimes (a lot of times) will offer up a diagnosis that isn't entirely accurate or remotely close to the true identity of an illness. It is an unfortunate side effect of being married to someone, who over the course of the last twelve years, has taken call on more than 200 weekends. He takes call from home, answering hundreds of questions about emergent, and too often, non-emergent issues, determining if those ill need further medical attention in the emergency room. These phone calls can be taken from almost anywhere - from bed at two o'clock in the morning, from the seat of his riding lawnmower, or from behind a cart at the local grocery store. No matter the location, when he is on call, he is IT, until he tags the next doc in the rotation.

Because of rigid commitments to HIPPA requirements, John never vocalizes the identity of those he speaks to, but I do occasionally hear his advice. I try not to listen. I really do. Because I know that if I do tune in I'll hear just a part of the counsel that only makes sense when received as a whole. This selective piece of information will be implanted in my overactive brain until it can be retrieved later for a litte drama I like to call "medical hysteria". My friends always comment that it must be such a convenience to sleep next to someone who possesses such a wealth of medical information that can be easily accessed with just a wink and a smile. For normal spouses it really would be advantageous. However, I, admittedly, am an abnormal wife who has called "wolf" too many times to get the proper attention deserved for any of my brown recluse spider bites or yellow hay fever symptoms .

When my oldest child was a toddler, medical hysteria often visited our home. I was a first time parent, scared silly that some ineptness on my part was going to cause my son irreparable harm. I found myself in a state of constant alert, bug-eyed and in a ready stance, for the next rare disease that could possibly cause a thumb to spontaneously grow out of my child's forehead. Clearly, there is no such thing, but at the time, I felt like I was always on the verge of experiencing some rare, unknown, medical malady.

One such example occurred after I noticed a drastic change in the contents of my son's diapers. (Weak stomached readers should proceed with caution.) His stool was unusually dark, with a tarry consistency that seemed extremely atypical.I knew just enough to be dangerous (meaning that I watched a lot of Dr. Oz on Oprah)and remembered that blood is black when presented in the stool.

I was quite upset and called my husband at work. Skipping phone pleasantries, I immediately launched into a very descriptive account of my findings, in a frenzied, emotional manner that guaranteed him home in minutes. Once arriving home, John examined the contents I had carefully preserved and became concerned after seeing the color of the poopie. All the while, I am offering helpful, running commentary like, "It's gotta be blood. I just know it is - don't you think it is? Have you even looked at the color? What do we do? Should we call an ambulance?"

John's level of apprehension wasn't even in the same hemishphere as mine, but he did calmly decide to take the specimen to the lab at his office to run some tests. He left with the evidence in a ziploc bag and I waited very unpatiently.

He returned about twenty minutes later with the much anticipated results. I watched as he walked straight into our kitchen pantry, and then returned with an empty package and a look on his face that reminded me of Encyclopedia Brown.The dark color of my son's stool did not indicate the presence of blood, but, instead a condition called plethysmo oreo, or in layman's terms, Oreos eaten in excess. Medical hysteria at its finest.

I wish I could tell you that there has been improvement in my behavior where the medical arena is concerned. There has not been. The combination of eavesdropping on weekend call, and enjoying addictive episodes of Grey's Anatomy and House have only produced the regrettable result of hypochondriac housewife.


Meritt said...

I was meant to read this today... really. LOL. Not because I'm like that (I'm not... I'm actually quite level headed and calm and laid back as a parent - even of newborns) but hearing how easy it is for your husbands patients to reach him made me smile.

You see... I was just emailing a friend back and forth all afternoon complaining about how difficult it is to GET TO TALK TO MY DOCTOR. We love love love our doctor but hate hate hate his nurse.

We put up with her just because we love him so much. So when I left a message this morning with the front desk to have him call AT HIS CONVENIENCE - And I specified that I would like to speak to him and not his nurse....

I could only roll my eyes when SHE called me back and then told me if I want to talk to him I'd have to go through her first or make an appointment (in which I'd have to explain everything to her first anyway). (Leaving out a lot of details here of course). PS: We are a small town... we are not a huge busy thriving metropolis.

So the fact that your husband actually talked to patients made me smile.

Joni said...

I'm sorry to hear that your doctor's nurse is a phone hog. Try this trick: call AFTER office hours, or when you know your doctor is on call. He'll have to talk to you then. : )