I have had a number of house calls lately.
No, not the jolly, friendly country doctor kind.
The you know me and you happen to be a doctor, so I will make use of you kind.
The scary part is, I have only been a doctor for three months. And I am a resident, not an attending.
I have written about the whole “I am not your doctor” spiel in the past. Despite that, I still wind up doing a number of mini quick fixes from time to time both because I want to help out and because people just think I should. I refer people to their doctor most of the time in these little episodes… But sometimes I really can just offer friendly advice.
One of my least favorite (but easiest) things is the “I have this rash…” complaint. I have had this one thrown at me at Patrick’s Grandfather’s 90th birthday from across a room, in a chance meeting at the mall and over the phone (complete with an iPhone picture via text). I don’t know skin. That is a major gap in my medical education. If it isn’t a burn and it doesn’t look infected or like ringworm or something nasty like a cancer, then it is probably inflammatory and will get better with a bit of steroid. I generally pull the see your doctor or try some cortisone cream or polysporin (depending on the appearance) and then see your doctor when it doesn’t get better. Most often, just see your doctor if you are that worried. That is why they get paid. Plus, I don’t know skin… One exception to this was the iPhone rash, that actually turned out to be acanthosis nigricans… That person went to their doctor promptly when I pointed out it could be a sign of bad other stuff going on inside.
I also get the bowel stuff. My friends are pretty open about this. Kind of like old people. But, nothing is better than getting a “my poop is…” I get routine updates from a few relatives/friends. Sometimes, I think I know what to do… But still… See your doctor.
I have been sucked into looking in throats, at bumps and picking through someone’s hair for lice. Wait… The lice thing happened long before medicine (a result of having teacher friends).
I had to check my friends’ kid’s penis for a rash. Yes. Because he kept scratching it. And other friends were taking care of him and wanted to make sure it was okay. The kid is four. It is hot out. Stuff gets itchy. He was fine with showing it off… Nonissue. Not the highlight of my summer, however.
I know about people’s acid reflux and headaches and lactose intolerance. I carry medications for all three at times. And I only use the headache medication.
Once, someone grabbed my arm and asked me to look at their eye. They thought they had pink eye. It looked like they had pink eye. And now, they had touched me. Thanks.
I once had a friend want me to smell her finger… She thought her cut was infected and smelled queer. After hours of saying no, I finally did. To appease her. Nothing out of the ordinary. This person is, however, one of my best friends. I have also smelled her socks to help her find clean ones. That is what friends are for. I just wonder if I would have had to smell her finger too, if I were a librarian or something safer.
One of the most hilarious things was a call I got from my Mom this week. It started with her asking if I had “that thing you use to look in people’s ears” with me. At this, L assumed it was our “smell my finger” friend in some sort of pinch. But no. As it turns out, my Mom suspects she got the cotton off of the end of a Q-Tip stuck in her ear. My Dad couldn’t see it. She felt silly going to Emerg. So, she called me. And she is good about not doing that. But this was important. It was her ear. So, despite not having an otoscope, I went over to my parents’ house. I peered in and couldn’t see it. I tried syringing her ears with warm water (don’t try this at home, kids). Nothing. I don’t know where it is. But it makes for a good story. Hopefully, it falls out… Or she will have to see her own doctor.
The things that people do and ask me to do make me laugh. Especially when they are sometimes shocked that I say no. Or tell them to see a real doctor. I want to help, but boundaries are good. At least they keep me smiling.