Q Fever! Medical Humor & Satire

March 7, 2001 | Volume 2, Issue 3

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When A Loved One Is Ill

Dr. Karl

Postgraduate medical training doesn't insulate physicians-in-training from medical problems that affect their own families. Interacting with colleagues who are caring for a sick loved one can be extremely challenging for young doctors.

This issue, Q Fever!’s I&R correspondent, Dr. Karl Newman, offers a few helpful hints on how to survive: When a Loved One is Ill.

Relatives. Unless you were abandoned in a shoebox and raised by wolves, you got 'em. And even if you were suckled by a she-wolf, you probably feel pretty attached to the furry ol' gal. Sure, medical training can make you feel like you're pretty in-control on them life-and-death issues, but when a relative gets sick, it still hits you like frijoles from a Tijuana street-vendor.

Here's a fer instance: my grandma, Bubbie Newman, developed a small bowel obstruction at this year's North-Central Jersey Hadassah KnishFest. She'd been totally healthy before that, and pretty strong for an 89 year-old (I can pin her in 10-15 seconds when we arm-wrestle, but still, she puts up a good struggle).

When my mom broke me the news that she'd gotten admitted, I snapped into action!

And you better believe I was gonna see to it that the Bubster got the best care... still, I know ol' Bubs was probably worried that I'd remember when I was 9, and she only gave me socks and a book for Chanukah, but it's a lot of years under the bridge, and my Uncle Mel gave me an Atari the next year anyway, so I feel like I can let it go.

So without further ado...

1. Don't Pussy-Foot The Doctor Thing.

Yeah, you heard me. You sweated those long years for that MD. Make sure everyone, from the custodian to the chief of the surgical service, knows you're a member of the Profession. Show up to the ward for visits in your scrubs and white coat, even if it's your day off. If you can get one of those old head-mirror things, that's even better.

Here's an example of a conversation I had with Bubbie's nurse the first day I visited:

Nurse:Hi! Are you a relative of Mrs. Newman's?
Bubbie: Oh yes! He's my grandson, here to vis...
Me: Yes. I'm Mrs. Newman's grandson. Her DOCTOR grandson. The grandson who's a DOCTOR. Here to do all I can, both as her grandson, and as a DOCTOR.
Nurse: Oh. Uh… okay. Well, 'doc', if there's...
Me: Hold it! There's no need to try to make ME feel at ease! I'm a DOCTOR. I'm in hospitals every single day. Doing DOCTOR stuff.
Nurse: Very well. I'll be back later. You two have fun, now!
Me: Yeah, like a DOCTOR has time for...

You can just imagine the kind of respect I got from then on!

2. Let 'em Know You're Watchin' Like A HAWK!

Whazzat!? Yup, you heard right! When your relative's nurse or intern comes in to round, tell them know you're watching them. Scribble furiously in a notebook. Clear your throat ominously at 2-3 minute intervals. Pretend you're about to leave the room, then spin round suddenly, cross your arms, and shake your head slowly back and forth. It's great!

3. Demonstrate Concern, And Lots Of It.

Say wha'!?! What I say! You can show the medical team how much you care about your relative by offering to donate your valuable time to their medical care. Put 'em at their ease by telling 'em you're skilled at placing IVs and catheters. Let 'em know that if they have any trouble, you're right behind them, ready to lend a hand. If your relative needs a surgical procedure, demand to scrub in.

Be warned: all they let me do was hold the retractors. Still, it's a win-win-win situation, for the care providers, for you…and most of all, for your LOVED ONE! (Hey Bubs, nice gallbladder!)

4. All's Well That Ends…

Whadda fuh? I don't lie: Bubbie's safe at home. No more knishes 'till the ostomy nurse gives her the green light, but her upper body strength is coming back up faster than chicken-fried steak (she's up over the 7 second mark with arm wrestling!!). And more important: the Newman family ties are stronger than ever!

So, 'till next time...

“Just tell ‘em Dr. Karl sent ya!”

Karl Newman, MD is a second-year resident in Internal Medicine. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Q Fever!, its editors, or its writers.

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