Symptoms? Heck, I’m not sick, I just want tests
“ONCE a day or maybe twice a day, I can’t really describe it, but my ear burps. Have you ever heard that symptom before?”
“Or maybe it’s more like a sigh. My ear sighs.”
I remain silent, suppressing the overwhelming urge to break into my impersonation of a hyena.
“Then again, it might be described as a fart.”
My self-control is waning. I have to say something to relieve the build-up of pressure now nearing the exploding point. So I blurt out: “Maybe it’s a fart that has been redirected.”
“Hmm... yes, redirected...”
I can see that he is seriously considering this possibility.
“It’s a weird feeling,” he continues dreamily.
“I’m sure it is.”
Now I could have mumbled something along the lines of narrow eustachian tubes and problems with equalisation of pressure, but if a cockamamie explanation suffices, why succumb to medical jargon? Simplistic explanations for simpletons, I say.
Especially when the perplexed person happens to be my husband.
But notwithstanding the actual problem he felt he needed advice about, at least he presented with an actual symptom. How many times do patients come in and plop down with a list of blood tests they want, or demands for specific radiology investigations, or a referral to a specialist, without even hinting at the problem?
One such consultation I experienced recently went something like this:
“My hairdresser’s sister’s best friend went to a naturopath who recommended that she have these tests done. But they cost a lot of money unless a GP orders them. So that’s why I’m here.”
“Are you asking me to order the tests for your hairdresser’s sister’s best friend?”
“No, they’re for me.”
“I see. But why don’t we start at the beginning. What seems to be the problem?”
“The problem is I just want these tests.”
“These aren’t tests that I routinely order.”
“But these are what the naturopath needs before she can do anything.”
“I can see how frustrating this is for you, but I need to be able to justify the tests I order. What exactly are your symptoms?”
“Why, I’m not going to stand for this Inquisition.”
It was a scene reminiscent of a Monty Python sketch. But unlike the skit, there was no fanfare of music and no grand entrance of cardinals in red robes. My patient simply got up and left.
My status as torturer was sealed, and I hadn’t even started questioning her along the lines of a review of systems.
I guess I didn’t appreciate how good I had it, commiserating about ear burps, sighs and farts with Hubby, until I got the wind up a real patient and copped a good blast of it.