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Friday, January 1, 2016

Vomiters Hate To Wait


As I was driving, a guest phoned to ask when I’d arrive.

“In about fifteen minutes.”

On her initial call, I had told her I would arrive in forty-five minutes, and I was on schedule, so the call meant that she was still vomiting. Vomiters are impatient.

My database shows 2,328 entries for “gastroenteritis” (the common stomach flu). It’s my second leading diagnosis and far more satisfying than “upper respiratory infection” (4,584). Both are almost always incurable, but gastroenteritis rarely lasts more than a day; patients give me credit when it goes away and rarely quarrel with my treatment.

For common illnesses, every doctor has a routine. He asks the same questions, delivers the same advice, often word for word, and prescribes the same treatment. Provided he stays alert for hints that something different is happening, everyone is satisfied.

The guest greeted me at the door, a good sign. A guest in bed is OK, sprawled on the bathroom floor is not good.

I asked the usual questions and did not interrupt as she delivered a precise, item by item, account of dinner. Everyone blames an upset stomach on their last meal, a belief as correct as most popular health beliefs. I gave the usual advice which included telling her to stop what she was doing (putting fluid into her stomach as fast as it came out) and to suck on ice and wait.

I gave the usual antivomiting injection and two packets of pills which I had pocketed before leaving so I wouldn’t have to remember to restock my bag.

When I phoned later, she had recovered and expressed gratitude that I had cured her.

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