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Embarrassing Medical Moments, Part I

After over three decades of patient care, I had more than one occasion where my foot made it into my mouth. Medical providers, although they like to pretend they are a different species from their patients, often make embarrassing mistakes. Now, I am not talking about a surgeon removing the wrong arm or something. I am talking about stupid things we might say.

Please don’t use baby-talk when you interact with your baby.

A few years ago, I entered the examination room only to see a mother happily playing with her baby.

“Eees a coot ‘lil boy. Looka es cootie toes. Mama tickle em? Es wanna a ba-wa?”

Huh? After a few minutes of this baby-babble, I thought I should say something. When babies hear baby-talk, they are more likely to imitate baby talk when they start to speak.

“You should not use baby-talk. It would be better for you to speak more clearly.”

She responded with a puzzled look. “I no speeka baby-talk. I speeka good.” Of course, I was not aware that the mother had a speech impediment.

Oh, I am so sorry. The last patient must have put a dirty diaper in the trash.

My wife, also a PA, entered a particularly stinky exam room. Immediately, she assumed that the previous patients, a new father with his two-year old, probably put a poopy diaper in the trash – a big no-no in medical office. Moms never do this; fathers on the other hand, do it all of the time.

She put on some gloves and began digging in the trash to find the offending diaper. After a few minutes, the embarrassed patient admitted to passing some unintended gas (She farted just before my wife came in).

Weren’t you in jail?

I love teasing little children. One day, I saw a cute little guy, about four years old, peaking over the front desk in our waiting room. All I could see was his little hands and the top part of his head over the counter.

“Hey, I know you. I thought you were in jail.”

He responded loudly, “No, I wasn’t in jail. But, my Daddy is!”

The entire waiting room stopped reading their magazines and looked up.

You think I’m crazy?

We have quite a few deaf patients in our practice. Over the years, I have picked up a few American Sign Language signs that I will use. However, I found it is not good to try and make up my own.

While taking a particular difficult medical history (without a sign interpreter), I found myself talking louder, and of course, using some animated signs of my own.

I wanted to ask her if she was feeling dizzy, so as I enunciated the words (so she could read my lips in spite of my mustache), I used my index finger to create a series of circles around my ear. Apparently, that does not mean “dizzy”.

“You think I’m crazy?” she responded.

In telling some of these embarrassing stories, one of our nurses told me one of hers.

You could use an extra hand.

She was a labor and delivery nurse in a large hospital. A woman had given birth to a set of triplets and was holding two of them. This nurse was holding the third baby. When the mother indicated she would like to hold all three, the nurse responded, “You could certainly use an extra hand.”

The mother froze about the same time this nurse noted that she only had one hand.

The reason why I called this Blog, “Embarrassing Medical Moments, Part I” is because I am going to remember more of these special moments. And, I would like to hear some of yours, so please share your stories.

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