I'd like to start this particular post with a very specific memory: it was circa 1997 and I was in my first year of high school. We were out on the sports field taking part in a class rugby game, and a member of the opposing team tackled me by grabbing me around the waist and swinging me backwards. It was by no means a bad or dangerous tackle (I've taken much worse hits), but unfortunately, I fell awkwardly on my right wrist and experienced excruciating pain.
I dragged myself onto the sidelines and sat out the rest of the game. Despite licking my wounds, the pain had not subsided by the game's end. From there it was off to the high school clinic, then back home, and finally off to the hospital (the former Masaba Hospital, if my memory serves me right). Just as I'd feared, I had fractured my wrist. Was probably a stress fracture because I can recall that, not too far back, one of the poles from a tent had struck that same wrist while we had dismantled a tent at school. At least it wasn't bad enough that it would require an implant; but it did require me to endure a POP cast for a period of 3 months. The worst part of this whole affair was the indignity that I was exposed to at the hospital. I remember the two female nurses taunting me for having the gall to play rugby, me being so spindly and all. Even worse, each of them kept squeezing the wrist to elicit the tenderness. Worst of all was when the doctor showed up and joined in the taunting. I remember that he was a massive fellow, but despite his stature, he claimed that he wouldn't be caught dead trying to play rugby. What on earth made me think I could indulge in the sport? Three taunting medical professionals, a fistful of pain and a dented ego made for one unbearably bad night.
Fast forward to my days as a medical professional, and the experience has been softened in hindsight. This is neither an admission that I have taken up a heavy-handed approach to patient care nor find it acceptable for other practitioners to disregard their patients; it is, rather, an admission that sometimes one person's malady can be another's (comedic) pot of gold.
I've said it once, and I'll say it again: a lot of your friends/family/colleagues who work in the medical field are damaged goods. You can attribute that to years and years of rigorous training, being part of a profession where your superiors have the bedside manner of an army drill sergeant, and impossible situations that everyday practice will throw your way. Like any good professional, we get used to the life....and then we begin to find humour in even the most macabre of situations.
Thus my disclaimer would be, "we're laughing with you, we're not laughing at you!"
Medical personnel's brains are wired a bit different from the rest of the population. In much the same way that firemen (and other first responders) are geared to run towards situations of danger, we actively seek out those situations that we've been trained to handle. A lot of times we're even fascinated by all that strangeness. A lawyer friend of mine was talking about his experiences with helping Key populations (aka people most at risk of contracting HIV - Gay men and IV Drug users). He commented that some gay people feel stigmatized when they show up with anal infections because the nurses start calling each other, "Kujeni muone maajabu!" (come see these wonders!)
Two things are at work here:
- Bad PR because sometimes we focus more on the ailment than the person.
- Utter fascination at getting to see things that previously we've only ever encountered in our books.
Thanks to shows like House MD, which exaggerate bits of the medical experience, you can understand that our minds are trained to probe situations, sometimes to extreme lengths. So, for example, when a patient walks into the Emergency Room with a fractured penis, normal minds might stop at merely thinking "Ouch! That must really hurt!" But not your medical friend. His/her mind works a little like this
- "Ouch! That must really hurt!" Let me take care of the patient's discomfort first.
- Let me document the patient's account of what happened (Will it be truthful, though? Patients lie, right?)
- The likely cause of injury occurred when aforementioned part probably encountered such-and-such in a traumatic clash
- Chances are that the woman that caused this "accident" is not likely to be the man's wife, because statistics show that ...
- My colleagues have heard about this case and have come trooping down to see for themselves what's up. Everybody's going to be giving their "2 cents" about this case.
- How on earth am I gonna keep a straight face when I have to present this case to my consultant?
Sometimes I feel guilty, like I'm headed to hell for finding some of these things funny; but, it is a coping mechanism. I think you'd rather prefer that I find your situation funny and can engage with it 100%, as opposed to fearing it and being overwhelmed by it as most normal folk would. As the disclaimer states, "I'm laughing with you, not at you!" Don't condemn us for our laughter/amusement, but appreciate that it is a joyous part of our day to find amusement in a day's work.