Category Archives: medical story

DUTY OF CANDOUR

IMG_2721People often talk about Monday blues, the feeling you get on Monday after you’ve had and enjoyed a work-free weekend. You feel lazy, tired, having no interest, zeal or enthusiasm to do anything. Monday depresses people more than any other day of the week. No wonder, studies have shown that people are more likely to commit suicides on Mondays than any other weekday or weekend. Studies have also shown that most sick- leaves are taken on Mondays. That is the nature of this special day, the first day of the week.

All the nurses on ward 19 knew what Monday was like, as it was the main operation day. If it were the Monday blues alone, Lucy Davies would not be bothered. She knew what to expect, and she always prepared her body and soul for this busy day. But, when you have a boss who not only looks over your shoulders but also into your throat, you feel more blues. Lucy’s cup was full, or to be more precise, over full. That was how she felt, as Sister Bella Simpson followed her round and criticised whatever she did.

Lucy had always wanted to be a nurse since the age of three, after surviving a severe infection with meningococcal meningitis. She would like to care for patients the way nurses had cared for her. Now, a qualified nurse, she faced a murder charge. Her patient had died from a deliberate injection of a toxic chemical. She denied ever doing anything to harm her patient, but no one believed her. Even her colleagues would not rescue her. As for her boss, she could not wait to see her locked away for life.

The police had charged her on the basis that everyone had testified that she was the last person to see Mark Calder alive. How could she kill her patient when, as she claimed, she left the room straightaway? Someone else must have committed the murder. But who was that person? Unless she could produce an alibi, she faced a life imprisonment. Even as she was locked away in solitary confinement, Lucy maintained her innocence,

“I left straightaway, when Sister Simpson asked me to leave,” she informed the police.

“That wasn’t what they told us,” the police officer said. “You remained in the room whilst they left. Yes, staff saw you going to the non-acute bay. But that was several minutes later. That was what all your colleagues said.” And then he stared into Lucy’s soul. And after drawing a long breath, he drew his face closer to hers. “You see, your only alibi, Miss Davies, is Mark Calder. Only him can tell who injected the drug that has killed him. But he’s no more  with us. His young life has been terminated by her nurse, the very nurse that he had trusted,” the officer concluded.

Lucy knew then that there was nothing else she could say. And when the officer finally formally charged her, she knew that her only chance of acquittal hung on the reasoning of the jury. She would argue her case and prove her innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.

Lucy remained locked up in the high security prison. As the police left, and she was left on her own, she wondered if there was anyone, one honest person among her colleagues, who would see it as a duty owned to Mark to report who had murdered him.

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dbfrontDR WORKAHOLIC

Dr Braver stood up and faced his wife. And pointing his fingers at her face, he roared, “Don’t you ever call me mad, stupid woman!” Mrs Braver stepped backward and shouted venomously, “You know what you are? An idiot. That’s what you are, Dr workaholic.” “There’s nothing wrong with being a good doctor. I do my job dedicatedly, caring for my patients. And if that in your dictionary is ‘workaholic‘ that’s your problem.” “Maybe it’s my problem but other dedicated doctors have time for their family.” “Of course, I have time for my family. What d’you mean I don’t have time for my family?” “Nonsense! Nonsense upon nonsense,” Jezzie snapped as she stepped forward, her face almost touching her husband’s. Dr Braver lowered his voice and reassured Mrs Braver, “You know I care about you lot. I care so much,” he said, as he gently touched his wife’s shoulder. Mrs Braver stepped backwards and turned her face away as she said, “If you care about your family then you would not ignore the message I left that your son has been taken ill.” Dr Braver shouted almost ripping his vocal cords. “No. That can’t be true. I had no such message. You know I will never ignore your call.” “No I don’t. At least not when you are at work.” “Don’t be ridiculous, Jezzie. I may be dedicated to my job. Or perhaps eccentric at times. But that does not mean that I don’t care about my family.” “Don’t tell me you care about the family,” Jezzie snapped, “Of course you don’t.” Then the couple stared accusingly at each other in an uncomfortable tranquility. The argument had been going on for over twenty minutes. Unknown to them, Oliver had sneaked out of the living room in search of peace. Of course, he was used to this kind of argument. When his parents had an argument, neither of them would pipe low for the other. He sat on the floor of his room and Lionheart lay down sympathetically beside him. BUY FROM AMAZON

THE DOG AND ITS MASTER

dbfrontThe Dog And Its Master

 Dr Braver pulled into his drive as the large gate flung open. He whistled sonorously as the gate slowly closed behind him. It was already dark.

“Darling I’m home,” he announced, as he slammed the door of his black Buick.

Jezzie turned her back on the window, ignoring her husband. Dr Braver tiptoed towards the window and tapped gently. Jezzie turned momentarily and simply nodded as she carried on with her telephone conversation.

Lionheart pushed itself through the ajar kitchen door and wagged its tail enthusiastically as Dr Braver stroked the well groomed back of the 6-stone boxer dog passionately. At that moment, the dog and its master seemed to be in their own world, completely detached from everyone. Dr Braver knelt down and gazed affectionately into the sparkling eyes of his companion and muttered sarcastically, “At least someone knows that I am someone.”

A few minutes later, the moment began to fade between the two outcasts. Dr Braver, now allowed his gaze to fall through the window.  His wife, still on the phone, was gesticulating madly but Dr Braver couldn’t tell from these actions how far the conversation had progressed. The barrier between husband and wife resulted in an unnatural silence on both sides.

Jezzie glanced out of the window, seemingly bored of the phone conversation, looking for an escape route. However, the couple’s eyes met unexpectedly and were locked in a cold embrace where each saw deep into each other’s soul.

Suddenly, Jezzie rolled her eyeballs through the slits between the thick layers of the variegated eye shadow. And with a swift flick of her hair, her head was turned away from the window again.

Dr Braver knew that trouble was waiting for him inside.

Nonchalantly, he strolled through the now fully open front door and closed it gently behind him. At that moment Jezzie said, as she hung up the phone, “l’ll talk to you later.”

Jezzie replaced the phone and braced herself up as she stood facing her husband. Her eyes were now almost tearing her eyelids apart with lancinating ferocity. Husband and wife were now watching each other, like tiger and lion, both capable of inflicting terrible wounds on each other and yet, neither would challenge the other.

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The Heartsink Patient

dbfrontThe Heartsink Patient

As I sat in my consulting room waiting for the nurse to fetch notes from Dr Braver’s room, I heard a light tap on my door but no one entered when I said, “Come in.” I walked to the door and as I opened, the auxiliary nurse had been struggling to open the door with one hand whilst the other hand supported the huge sets of notes to her chest. I helped her with the door as I wondered why, after a long period when I virtually did nothing, I now had to see so many patients within the remaining period and the clinic would be ending shortly.

Dr Braver has had to leave. I think it might be his wife that phoned him as he seemed to be in a hurry when he left. You know what he’s like when Mrs Braver phones. Sounded like he was taking her to the hair dresser.”

“So, he wants me to see all of these this morning? Tough.”

“Yes. He said you should make sure you see all the patients and phone him with every case that you saw.” The auxiliary nurse said, as she carefully placed the notes on the floor close to my desk.

“This must be a joke!” I exclaimed, “Never mind. Hopefully he would return to the clinic.”

“I doubt very much.” She said, as she prepared to call the first of the patients into my consulting room.

My heart sank as the auxiliary nurse ushered in the patient. I had seen her before and I felt like telling her to rebook on another day to see the boss himself. She was a patient that never smiled. She looked thinner than she did the last time that I saw her and the look on her face today was that of the devil just woken. But that wasn’t the reason why my heart sank. The first time I saw her was on the ward when she was admitted for investigation of her abdominal pain. Dr Braver had recommended an exploratory laparotomy to her. But she declined. That did not surprise me after reading her case history. The first operation that she had was laparoscopic appendicectomy, the removal of the appendix through the keyhole method. Prior to having the operation, she had been complaining of pain in the lower part of her tummy. Dr Braver told her that she had a grumbling appendix and that her pain would settle after he had removed the appendix. She suffered an injury to her large bowel which resulted in having a colostomy. On her insistence, Dr Braver took her back to theatre to rejoin the bowels after three weeks. The joined bowels broke down and Dr Braver yet again took her back to theatre to have the colostomy restored. The restored stoma broke down and she had to undergo further surgery. After four weeks Dr Braver had planned to close her colostomy but she developed a deep vein thrombosis. Now her legs were permanently swollen. She was still complaining of abdominal pain. She was as thin as bone and smoked like a chimney.

“Oh he is not here today!” she said, as she settled down in the chair in front of me.

“Im sorry, Dr Braver has had to go to attend to an emergency,” I said, seeing the disappointment on her face. Normally, patient like her would be seen by the consultant as they usually were too complex for the junior doctor and were not satisfied.

“How come no one had told me?” She shouted. And after coughing several times, her chest still rattling, she said, “And I have sat down there for two hours waiting to see the consultant!”

“I am sorry.” I said, with empathy.

I didn’t know what else to say. She was right. Someone should have told her she was not going to see Dr Braver. At least, it would have been up to her to decide if she would like to see me. It made me wonder how many patients waiting out there were hoping to see the consultant.

“Not your fault, I guess,” she said, as she stared uncomfortably into my eyes.

“So how can I help you today?” I asked, unsure of her reason for her attendance. According to Dr Braver’s last letter to her GP, he had discharged her from his clinic. But she was now back and I could not find her new referral letter. It was probably in Dr Braver’s folder. He usually kept such letters in a special folder.

“You can’t help me. Look at the mess he had made on my tummy.” She got up and lifted her shirt to show me several scars on her abdomen.

“I see.” I said.

But I didn’t think that was the reason she had come back to see him. I waited expectantly to hear what more she was going to say.

“My pain has got worse. It’s tummy pain day in day out. I can’t eat. Look at me. I am now a walking skeleton.” She said, tears streaming out of her deep orbits.

“You said you can’t eat. What happens when you try to eat?” I asked.

“I have a good appetite but I daren’t put anything in my mouth.” She replied.

“Why?” I asked and screwed my eye.

“You are asking me, why? Have you not been listening. Or are you too telling me I am mad?” She shouted.

“Who said you were mad?” I asked softly.

Him. The God himself. Luckily he is not here today. I would have shown him that I am truly a mad woman.”

“That sounds serious.” I cleared my throat and paused to regain my composure. “What about if I  asked you to tell me more about how eating affects your stomach pain?”

She coughed again and almost choked as she replied, “When the food gets to my stomach I start with severe pain and this can go on for several hours. I am sweaty and feeling faint. The pain is so severe. It’s murder. I just can’t face food any more. Sometimes I thought it was better to die than live like this, because this is no life.”

After further questioning, I suspected that this woman had Mesenteric angina caused by some narrowing in the arteries of the bowels. This condition is common in long term heavy cigarette smokers. Patients with this condition have severe pain in their abdomen after eating. This is because, after eating, there is not enough blood flow to the bowels due to the narrowing of the arteries. I told her to lie down on the examination couch. And when I placed the bell of my stethoscope on the top part of her abdomen, I heard a loud bruit. I became more convinced of my diagnosis, but still needed to confirm it.

I wasn’t sure if that was the problem with this woman. But I thought it would be prudent to rule it out. Nevertheless, I was careful not to raise her hope, knowing that Dr Braver could disagree with me, particularly, since that would make him feel less knowledgeable should that be the diagnosis. And of course, he could override my decision.

“So, what are you going to do?” She asked, now almost pleading.

“I am just thinking. I’m not sure. I just wondered if we should rule out a condition that can sometimes cause this kind of pain. But that would mean having to undergo further tests.”

“I don’t care what tests you do as long as you find out what the problem is. Nothing can be worse than the pain I have been having.” Her face became less narrow, showing a glimpse of hope.

“Okay then. I just need to nip to the X-ray department to chat with the radiologist.” I said.

The woman needed to have a special scan to diagnose the problem. I had to do this before Dr Braver got to know. I knew I was taking a risk. If the scan turned out to be negative it would be real trouble. But if the diagnosis was confirmed it would be a relief for everyone although he would still criticise me for taking the liberty to organise an MRI scan without first discussing with him.

In the twinkle of an eye I had arrived in the X-ray department. I was glad that Dr Grayson was the duty radiologist. Unlike his colleagues, he was approachable and knew a great deal of clinical medicine. Having initially trained as a surgeon before becoming a radiologist, he was always very helpful when surgeons needed radiological input. Dr Grayson agreed with my suspicion. Fortunately, there was a cancellation and he was willing to perform the procedure that afternoon if the patient was prepared.

I raced back to the OPD, relieved that I was able to organise an MRI Angiogram within a few minutes, something that would normally take several weeks to arrange.

“You will be having your scan this afternoon madam.” I said, with a beam of smile.

“Oh thank you, doctor. Thank you. You are God sent.” She jumped up. Suddenly, her strength returned from nowhere. And for the first time after many months, she smiled as she hoped to see a way out of her predicament.

“I am not promising. And I’m not even sure if we will find anything. But I believe it’s worth a try.”

“As I said, I will try anything.” She said.

“Now, you better go and get yourself ready before Dr Grayson changes his mind.”

“Thank you again, Doctor.” She said, as she shut the door behind her.

Just before I called the next patient, there was a tap on the door. I thought the woman had come back to decline the MRI scan.

“What have you done to that woman?” Sister Bamforth asked, as she pushed through the door.

“Which woman?” I puzzled.

“The patient that you’ve sent to the X-ray department. She was singing your praises as the nurse took her to the department.”

“Oh God. I hope I have not raised her hope too highly.”

“I don’t think it mattered to her. And I don’t think anyone can stop her either.” She said.

“Oh well, I wish her good luck.” I said, trying to stop the discussion going further. I really didn’t have time for further gossips.

“You know the problem you have now got, doctor?”

“What?” I asked.

“The patients are now changing their mind. Many of them were trying to rebook their appointment. But they are now waiting to see you. That means, a long clinic.” She replied.

“I’m sure we’ll be fine.” I tried to draw the discussion to an end.

“Sure.” She said, as she swiftly walked out of the room.

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My Head Nearly Exploded

dbfrontAs I wondered about going to her, my bleep went off. I almost dropped the bleep when I saw that the number that appeared on it was Dr Braver’s office. At first, I thought of ignoring it. After all, it was the end of the day and I could pretend to have left the hospital. But I knew, of course, that if Dr Braver wanted me he could phone me at home or wherever I might be and whatever the time might be. I remembered what my mother used to tell me, “If you stand up to your demons they would not overcome you.”

I dialled the number with trembling hand, hoping that no one would pick it. My heart stopped completely when he picked the phone. His voice was unmistakable.

Doctor,” he commanded, “Leave whatever you are doing and get yourself here straightaway.”

“Yes, Dr Braver,” I replied, my heart now out of my body.

“This sounds serious,” I said to myself. But then, he always sounded serious whenever he called. Did he really believe that I was party to the gossips about the incident in the theatre today? Has he found out that I am dating his secretary or his wife fancies me? I battled with these thoughts as I raced to his office.

“Yes, Dr Braver?” I said, my armpit dripping with sweat.

“Tell me. Who told that idiot that I snipped the tip of her son’s willy when did his circumcision?”

“The idiot?” I asked, pretending not to know that he was referring to the boy’s mother.

“Yes, the boy’s mother,” he said, his voice stronger.

“I did not discuss with anyone. Besides, I don’t believe in discussing things that go on in the theatre. That is not my problem.”

“Alright then,” he said, as he pulled out a document, an A4 paper, from the printer, “Something for you to sign.”

“So, you want me to sign this paper?”

“Exactly,” he said, smiling sarcastically.

“And if I don’t?”

“Your registration will cease.”

“So you want me to lie so you can recommend me to the GMC for continuation of my registration?”

“That’s the score, son,” he said, as he lit his pipe.

I felt like an elephant sat on my heart as I left Dr Braver’s office. I had had people say someone made them sign documents under duress. It happened daily in my country. Police would force people to sign fictitious document or to confess to what they did not do or face torture. Soldiers would force people to sign wrong documents at gunpoint. As for me, I had never experienced this. And I had always said that no one would make me sign any document that I didn’t want to sign. I often boasted to my friends whenever the issue came up, that I had the body of a heavy weight boxer and it would take several police officers to pin me down. They would have to shoot me before they would be able to compel me to do any wrong. But I guess, Dr Braver knew his career and credibility were on line. It would probably be less serious if he put the blame on his African registrar. But where would my own credibility lie in a world where nothing good seemed to come out of Africa? Whatever my belief, I thought, I was in a no win situation.

I needed to speak to someone. But whom would I trust? All of a sudden, I began to feel lonely. I wished I were back home. There, I would not run short of advisers, and good ones too. But here, I found it hard to trust any one. Still, I knew I had to talk to someone before my head exploded. The first person that came to my mind was Anna. I knew she was a straightforward person and she claimed to love me. But I felt guilty because despite all the fun I had with her, I still found it difficult to trust her. I wasn’t convinced that she did not have or had not had an affair with Dr Braver. May be I was being jealous, I wasn’t too sure.

I couldn’t get these thoughts out of my head as I walked back to my flat. Then I remembered my mother. When all else failed I could always count on her advice. An intelligent and forthright woman. I knew I could count on my mother’s advice. Probably the only one I could trust to give me an honest advice. My problem was, my mother was not medical. She would be unlikely to understand medical ethics and law. But one thing I knew was that she would not fault on common sense and would provide a balanced view.

Nevertheless, the thought of involving my mother frightened me. I did not want to cause panic at home. Since my father died I had become the provider for my mother and my siblings. If I told my mother that my boss had threatened to stop me from working if I didn’t sign the document, she would probably fly to the British High Commission to protest. But that was my mother. Even now in her eighties, she was a formidable woman. Tough and fearless. In the end, I decided to keep her out of the problem. I should be able to handle it myself as a matured man, I thought.

I had planned to go to the gymn after work. But I really no more felt like going out that evening. All I wanted was a large bowl of rice and peas and a can of lager. Whilst it was good to deal with a problem straightaway, there were times, I thought, when you would allow events to unravel naturally and every aspect of it would call for specific ways of resolving it. My conscience was clear. I had not done anything wrongly. And if Dr Braver decided to lay blames on me I would strongly defend myself.

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Hippocrates’ Great Grandson

dbfrontI accepted the invitation to visit the Bravers with mixed feelings. On one hand, I could not imagine that a person who I perceived to hate me so much could invite me for a meal. I thought he was looking for an opportunity to humiliate me. He had done that in the front of patients, nurses, his secretary and medical staff. Now, he needed to ridicule me before his family. My other mind was telling me to give him a chance. Maybe he had a different side to his character. A normal aspect outside of work. Other doctors and nurses had been talking about the Bravers’ party for days, all the people that I mentioned it to indicated they would attend.

The Bravers’ residence was an isolated bungalow in the remote part of the county. The bungalow was spectacularly rebuilt from two large farm houses that had been knocked into one. Situated conspicuously on an elevation in a four-acre land it enjoyed a magnificent view of the Dales.

Many guests had arrived by the time the taxi was able find the way to the house that seemed at first to be in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t feel at ease to go in. I stood on the front corridor hoping that someone would pop outside to have a smoke or something or a late arrival could arrive and we could go in together. There was a lot of talking and giggling going on as well as bottles and glasses making noise as they served the drinks.

Both women giggled. Just then, the whole place went dead silent. Dr Braver stood in front of the guests, now holding a large bottle of Vodka in one hand.

“Can I have everybody’s attention?” He sipped from the bottle. “Thank you for coming to this great place. Capital of the whole world. I know you have been drinking and chatting. Do feel free to wander around the Bravers’ Castle. There is a lot to see. In a moment, I shall take you to see my neighbours! Then we shall all return for our meal. Tonight, we will be having Chinese take away. You know, Jezzie can’t cook. But she’s made a good effort to get us excellent meal from the Chinese restaurant in town.

“Neighbours? I didn’t realise you have neighbours,” I asked Jezzie, as the house looked to me to be the only one in the four-acre land.

Jezzie laughed. “Don’t mind my husband,” she replied, “He is trying to be funny. I think he should learn from you how to make people laugh. His neighbours are his animals downstairs in the cellar. He probably spends more time with them than with me. And you can’t get him out of there when it gets to his head.”

“Oh I see,” I said, wondering if that was where he was the night I was trying to phone him concerning his patient who had complications after his bowel surgery.

“Before you meet my neighbours, I guess you would like to have a tour of the Castle.” He took a large sip from his bottle of Vodka. “You see, people often wonder why we have such a huge estate. Well, when the wife misbehaves there are many rooms to hide away. Then, of course, the big garden and large conservatory are there for me to chase Jezzie around. We all trooped behind him holding our drinks as he proudly showed us round his castle. Right at the end of the main corridor was a statute that I didn’t recognise until I saw the elegant inscription, Hippocrates, the father of medicine.

“This is my great grand father,” he announced. “I can see the puzzle on your faces. Not in the literal sense. I mean, my professional father.”

And everybody laughed. Of course, I laughed too. But not for the same reason that the other people laughed. If he was the great grand son of Hippocrates, he sure missed out on the genes of this very respectable medical ancestor. The very founder of medical ethics. Primum non nocere!

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Men Are Wimps!

divinehopeMrs. Pearson had finished her shower and had got into her pyjamas when Angela got back home.

“Have you heard from Mark?” Her mother was direct. Angela had been hoping that it would be a brief check on her mother and a quick good night kiss. Her heart quickened as her brain struggled to find the right answer. In the end, she decided to be truthful. That was how she had brought her up. To tell the truth without mincing words.

“I phoned him just before coming here.”

“And?”

“Didn’t talk much. Only told him that I’m having my operation in the morning.”

“And what did he think?”

“Don’t know.” Angela scratched her head and stared into the blank. “It doesn’t matter anyway.”

“I’m sure he’s scared.” Her mother tried to make her understand.

“But he’s not acting like a man. Not a brave one anyway.” She brushed her hair backwards with her hand. “You see, Mama, when I got married to Mark I thought I got married to a real man. One with a heart big enough to harbour all my troubles and heavy shoulders to carry my burden. But sadly, all I’ve got now is a wimpish lamb.”

“Your husband loves you…”

“How can you say that after what he’s done?”

Her mother smiled and shook her head. “I know he loves you and I can assure you that he’s probably somewhere out there among his mates drinking his life out.”

“If he loved me he wouldn’t do that. You don’t hurt the person that you love,” she retorted.

“Sometimes your treasured possession has a stain but you still treasure it anyway. That’s exactly what love is. It is unconditional.”

“That’s my point. If he loved me it should be unconditional. That’s the point I am making. He doesn’t love the children either.”

“Don’t say things like that. Of course he loves you all. Think of the times that you have shared together. If you count the number of breeze and storms in your relationship as a family, it would surprise you how much love you have for one another.”

“Mama, I can’t believe that you’re supporting Mark’s reckless behaviour.”

“I am not supporting the way he has acted. Of course not.” She put her arm over her daughter’s shoulder. “But darling you are not living in the real world. Everything cannot be perfect. And don’t expect people to reason or behave in your own way. Sometimes someone that we love can disappoint us. Call them stupid, insensitive, lazy, or whatever. You see, people are different, but love is the same.”

Angela’s heart started to melt as she listened to her mother. She could now see the point her mother was making and she didn’t want to argue anymore. She lay down beside her mother and listened to her like a baby listening to her mother read a bedside storybook. She knew that her mother was always objective in her appraisal of things and she was always practical. Angela always counted herself lucky for having a mother like her.

“I don’t want you to be too disturbed. You see, it may look to you like he doesn’t care. I am sure he does. And he loves you. But he is a man. That’s the problem.”

“I don’t understand that, Ma’am.” Angela’s eyes opened like an oyster.

Her mother cleared her throat. “You see, men are not as tough as they look. You go to the labour room and look at the faces of those husbands when their wives are having babies. If God was to change his mind and make men have babies, the midwives would have no jobs.” Both women laughed hysterically. “That, my dear, is what men are. Wimps.” She mopped the tears from the corner of Angela’s eyes.

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