Doctors get sick too. More often than not. Actually interns get sick the most, thanks to the high paced, high stressed, lack of sleep, food and decent showers and basic hygiene methods. However being sick doesn’t excuse you from work, unless ofcourse you are dead.
I learnt the hard way about my ailing immune system over the years. My immune system has no doubt served me well, one occasion being the exception. On the spectrum of illness, I would consider flu like symptoms the least and diarrhoeal disease the worst.
I happened to be in casualty on a Friday night during a Friday-Sunday call(the worst) and dutifully examined the child whose mother announced was constipated and had tummy cramps. An acute abdomen or bowel obstruction had to be ruled out and so I began my quest.
“No abdomen examination is complete without a Per rectal exam! Up and onwards you must always go” profs words rang in my head. I have no problem with rectal examinations. Infact I’ve spent a great deal of time in rectums. (See my post on rectal respect). It hardly bothered me anymore.
But ofcourse it bothered the child. As she was constipated it was necessary that I rule out any anal wall abcesses or fissures which would deter the faecal pass out. I think she was more embarrassed than uncomfortable and she made it pretty clear.
I palpated the abdomen and to my delight it was soft. I put my stethoscope gently on her chest and began to listen with my eyes closed paying attention to her breath sounds.
That’s when it happened. The child was seeking vengeance of course, for the rectal violation. She heaved a huge breath from the bottom of her lungs which I heard while my stethoscope lay on her chest, and let out enough phlegm to cover a small city, sprawled out on the front of my face. Thick yellow germ infested phlegm.
I held my breath to avoid inhaling the bacterial colonies but alas, too late. I felt the mucous inside my nostrils growing like a bomb. Waiting to explode.
The mother apologised profusely and handed me a tissue. I glared into the eyes of one smug child, satisfied with her revenge.
I discharged the child and was on my way still reeling from the ordeal. I washed my face numerous times and started grabbing vitamin C supplements like it’s gum. The rest of the night was uneventful.
I woke up on Saturday after noon feeling the full effects of the act of vengeance. My nose was clogged with mucous. My head felt like a brick. And my eyes felt like a sandpit on fire. My throat was crawling with the infestation of hemophylus influenza. I was sick.
I cursed my immune system for succumbing to a child. Showing weakness in a dire time! I self medicated and hoped for the best.
I woke up on Sunday morning and of course I felt worse. My body ached and could barely move. I shuffled out of bed and attempted to get to work alive. I was snotty zombie.
I arrived at work to find people scattering from my path pretty well knowing I was a powerhouse of infection. I donned my duckface mask to avoid spreading my horrible infestation.
I carried myself along with the help of flu meds and oros juice. Sniffing and blowing my already raw nose intermittently. The build up of mucous derailed my balance and I caught myself walking skew.
My medical officer arrived and announced “damn moosa you look like crap” i took it as a compliment as I felt much worse. “Thank you” I whispered.
“Must I call the one on indisposition?” He queried. The person on indisposition is basically the intern as back up if one of is is to collapse or die i’d imagined. I felt my bounding pulse, “nah I’ll be okay “I lied.
I’d hate to call someone in from an enjoyable weekend to replace me especially if i was still conscious.
“Well move to OT then there’s an appendix from last night”
I cringed. I planned to self Medicate one more time to cure the bounding headache and dry up my mucous filled nose before heading to OT. just 2 hours i consoled myself, hoping my nose wouldn’t bother me too much. The worst possible situation is feeling mucous drip past your nose and to your mouth as you are scrubbed up and you can’t attend to blowing your nose. Salty.
And Theres only so much you can sniff before the theatre gave you eye balls.
I opened the wards medicine cupboard and rubbed my eyes who were hidden behind my swollen eye lids. I searched for allergex and panado and found some pills resembling it and chugged it down with my trusty oros. I cracked open a voltaren and injected my left gluteus maximus.
I felt better from the get go. And in OT I found myself coping quite well. Maybe my immune system was finally making a come back. How wrong I was.
The abdomen was opened and out peeped the inflammed appendix swimming in some ordinary pus. We identified clamped and tied.
All of a sudden I felt a weird sensation in my abdomen and I shuffled in my position. My bladder distended at a rate unprecedented. I needed to urinate urgently.
“Um I need to use the bathroom ” I announced as I half ran whilst unscrubbing. “What the…..” I couldn’t stay for the rest of the roasting by the medical officer as i needed to attend to my bladder before it imploded.
I relieved myself with urgency and got back to the operating theatre apologetically. The medical officer continued and we began carefully taking the appendix out of the abdomen and rinsing the excess muck.
Not even 5 minutes had passed when I began having the same sensation again of bladder distension. I was mortified.
It then dawned upon me. My mind reverted to the medicine trolley I had opened and I distinctly remember seeing a LASIX BOX (FUROSEMIDE)- A DIURETIC.
Unfortunately it flushes out excess water from your body and that’s exactly what was happening to me. I died a little inside. I must have taken it accidentally with the Panado.
I paused and began dancing on the spot to avoid peeing myself. I explained this to my medical officer who exploded into fits of laughter while I ran out to the bathroom.
The rest of the appendectomy occured at my expense. The anaethetist and medical officer were entertained while I fought back the urge to urinate.
I was grateful it was only an appendectomy which turned out to be a straight forward procedure.
Had it been a lengthier procedure, I doubt I would have survived to tell the tale.