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(Regrettably, our local university is the main reason that county STD rates are the second-highest in the state (the highest-ranking county is home to a naval base). Outbreaks are common and rather a grim joke with local healthcare providers. The county has purchased a new emergency radio system and one of their officers has arrived to train our staff on how to use the equipment.)

Instructor: “The great thing about this system is that it is linked to over two hundred towers, state-wide. This means that if you need to, you can communicate not only throughout the county, but with other jurisdictions as well. For example; let’s say you have to set up some kind of emergency clinic at the University for… I don’t know, what’s an epidemic that the students might experience there?”

Me: *without thinking* “Probably chlamydia.”

(My boss shushed me, but our director of nursing almost fell off her chair from laughing so hard.)


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Old 10-30-2019   #511
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Their Medical Opinion Is Not Abs-olute

Hospital, Non-Dialogue, USA | Healthy | December 8, 2017


When I was in grad school I was hit by a car while walking home one night. At the time it appeared all I suffered was road rash and bruises and I was sent home from the ER pretty quickly, but over the next several months internal symptoms started manifesting, culminating in me being unable to eat or drink anything without suffering severe abdominal pain.

I’m home with my parents for the summer when it gets so bad they call me an ambulance and accompany me to the ER. Before anyone can tell the first person who sees me not to do so, they’ve put morphine in my IV, which I do NOT get along with, so when the doctor arrives to check me out I’m being terribly sick while my poor mother holds the bucket. The doctor takes one look at me (female, age 22) and starts lecturing me about the evils of binge drinking and really, if I’m going to drink enough beer to make me sick I deserve the consequences. By the time I could lift my head enough to see what was going on, two nurses and an orderly were holding back my dad from wreaking grave bodily injury on this idiot. (As it happens, never before or since have I ever had enough to drink that it made me sick.)

Turned out the impact trauma had caused intestinal adhesions which needed to be surgically cut loose so peristalsis would function normally again. No thanks to that idiot doc, or the four after him — the first doctor who actually listened to me and who performed the surgery that fixed everything was, not coincidentally, the only female doctor I saw through the whole ordeal. I have not seen a male doctor since!
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Old 10-30-2019   #512
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Find An Opening For The Explanation

Chicago, Family & Kids, Illinois, Medical Office, USA | Healthy | December 8, 2017


(My daughter is six years old and takes everything literally. For example, when saying something stinks such as “Oh, well, that stinks; you can come out for the day” she will ask me, “How does it smell?” Today I had to take her to her pediatric cardiologist, to have her heart murmur checked. I explained to her that it wasn’t going to hurt and that the doctor was just going to listen to her heart. She said okay and I thought nothing more of it. But when the nurse came in.)

Nurse: “All right, we are going to look at your heart.”

Daughter: “Okay. I took my shirt off, but how are you going to open my body to see my heart? Because Mommy said this wouldn’t hurt.”

(I will admit, the nurse’s eyes only bugged out for a second before she pulled herself together and explained that she had a special camera to look at it without having to “open her body.” Next time I will try to remember to explain a bit better!)



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X-Dentist

Dentist, Minnesota, USA | Healthy | December 8, 2017


(After looking for a good long while, I finally find a dentist that takes my insurance. I’ve only been to a dentist twice in my life — I grew up very poor — but I’ve been having bad pain in my jaw. An older gentleman, the dentist, ushers me behind a curtain and sits me on the dentist chair.)

Dentist: “So, how long since your last dental appointment?”

Me: “About six years ago I went to a free dental clinic. Before that, I think I was in second grade. That’s it.”

Dentist: *flatly* “Ah. So you probably have bad teeth. Open up; let me see the damage. Do you even brush your teeth?”

(My wife and I make significant eye contact around the curtain. The dentist puts on gloves and pokes my teeth a couple of times with a finger.)

Dentist: “Huh. You’ve actually got great teeth. Did you grow up in a third world country?”

Me: “I grew up in Tennessee.”

Dentist: “Oh, so THAT’S why. Southern people don’t take care of their teeth. Well, your teeth look really good actually, except for that overlap in the front.” *he pokes my top front teeth, one of which overlaps the slightest bit onto the other* “That’s unfortunate because without it you’d have perfect teeth. I’m not sure why you came in today. You don’t have any cavities.”

Me: “…what about that jaw pain?”

Dentist: “Right, that. Well, I guess I could take X-rays if you want. I’m not sure why you’d want them. You’re just grinding your teeth.”

Me: “I’ve never had dental X-rays done, though. Shouldn’t we get an X-ray to check?”

Dentist: *massive sigh* “Fine, fine, we’ll do them. I think you just want to waste some time.”

(Lo and behold, the X-rays showed my bottom wisdom teeth needed to come out ASAP. They grew sideways and are pushing the roots of the teeth next to them, shifting the teeth and causing my pain. The dentist was surprised, and then tried to sell me a $100 mouth guard that would stop the pain, because he thought I’m grinding my teeth and that my wisdom teeth had nothing to do with it. We did not take him up on the offer and are looking for a new dentist.)
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Old 10-30-2019   #513
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Some Heart-Warming Explanations

Hawaii, Hospital, USA | Healthy | December 7, 2017


(I have visited the cardiologist for EKGs and echoes every two years since I was born, and one year I am old enough to ask my doctor why I have to.)

Doctor: “You have a heart murmur. Arrhythmia and mitral valve prolapse.”

Me: “What’s that mean?”

Doctor: “Well, most people’s hearts have a steady two-beat. BUMP-bump, BUMP-bump, BUMP-bump, like a drummer. Your heart is like a jazz drummer, who just does whatever: BUMP-bump-bump, BUMP-bump-bump, BUMP, bump-BUMP, no bump. There’s extra beats and missed beats, with no pattern to it.”

Me: “What’s the other one?”

Doctor: “Imagine the hood of a Japanese convertible. The roof goes up, and when it comes back down, it fits perfectly into its base without problems, and is completely sealed. Now imagine the hood of an American convertible. When the roof comes back down, it doesn’t quite fit into the base; it’s off-center, and the air-conditioning will leak out and rain can get in. Your heart is an American car, and the valve is the convertible roof.”

(Two decades later, and I still love this doctor’s explanations to a confused kid.)
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Old 10-30-2019   #514
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Their Behavior Is Not Hole-Hearted

Hawaii, Hospital, USA | Healthy | December 7, 2017


(I’m a young woman who was born with an innocent heart murmur that gets checked every few years; arrhythmia and mitral valve prolapse. I have recently suffered some strong heart palpitations that lasted an hour and left me exhausted and terrified that something’s wrong. After spending the night at the hospital, and the X-ray, EKG, and echo tests showing nothing new, I’m sent to a cardiologist for a stress test. After being stuck with enough wires that I look like a cyborg and 20 hellish “Now a little bit faster” minutes on the treadmill, I float light-headedly over to the exam table and lie down while they check the scans.)

Nurse #1 : “Oh, wow. [Nurse #2 ], come look at this.”

Nurse #2 : “Wow. I’ve never seen that outside of textbooks.”

Nurse #1 : “Me, too! Hey, look at this part–”

(While the nurses are ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at the picture on the screen, I’m staring at them with rising concern. My worry spikes when the doctor herself comes into the room, sees what they’re looking at, and proceeds to talk about it to them like she’s teaching a university lesson. Finally, I raise one of my trembling cyborg arms.)

Me: *weakly* “Um… excuse me?”

Doctor: *looking at me with surprise* “Yes?”

Me: “Is… is something wrong?”

Doctor: “Oh, no. You just have a hole in your heart.”

Me: “…I have a WHAT?”

Doctor: “But that’s not what’s causing your palpitations.”

Me: “It’s… not?”

Doctor: “Nope. It’s small and near the top of your heart; it shouldn’t be affecting you at all. It just happens sometimes when your heart muscle sinks to the bottom.”

Me: “Oh… okay. So there’s a hole in my heart, but… it’s not a problem. So it’s okay.

Doctor: “Yep. You can come back to keep an eye on it, though, just to make sure it doesn’t get any bigger.”

Me: “?!”

(That did not fill me with confidence, surprisingly. They never found a physical source for the palpitations, so eventually decided they were panic attacks, and I got to add ‘hole in the heart’ to my heart murmur repertoire.)
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Old 10-30-2019   #515
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Doesn’t Have 20/20 Psychiatry

Psychiatrist, USA | Healthy | December 7, 2017


(I’ve suffered from mental health issues since I was young, but I wasn’t able to do anything about it because my family has issues believing that mental illness is real. A few years ago, while I was in college, things got really bad so I finally tried to tell my parents about it. It took a few months of frustration and arguing, but I eventually managed to convince them it was actually an issue. They found a psychiatrist I could see and I was excited at first. I thought I’d be able to get some help! I’d hardly walked in the door before I realized there would be a problem.)

Psychiatrist: *shaking my hand* “So, how old are you?”

Me: “I’m turning 20 next month.”

Psychiatrist: *laughs* “20? You’re far too young to have any problems! Why are you even here?”

Me: “Young or not, I actually do have a lot of symptoms I’m worried about.”

(I hand her a list I’d made of symptoms I’d been struggling with, including some rather severe ones. She sets it aside after barely glancing at it.)

Psychiatrist: “Why don’t you just tell me about yourself? Do you have a boyfriend?”

Me: “Um… no, I don’t?”

Psychiatrist: “Why don’t we talk about that. It might be causing some of your ‘issues.’”

(It was only downhill from there. She dismissed all my symptoms, including my suicidal ideation and dissociation, as nothing more than school stress or lacking a boyfriend. I was told I just needed to get out of the house more often and make a few friends, something my parents insisted was a cure-all as well. Ever since that day, nothing I’ve said has been able to convince them otherwise. The only reason I’ve improved at all — and mostly stopped being suicidal — is because of my college’s psychologist. I’d only found out there was a doctor on campus afterwards, and after meeting him, he was shocked I’d managed to make it as far as I had without any help at all. I’m living back at home now that I’ve graduated, only until I can find work, but he helped me immensely while I was still enrolled. I don’t think I would have survived school without his help.)
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Old 10-30-2019   #516
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You Might Need To Sit Down For This

Hospital, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, USA | Healthy | December 6, 2017


(My mom and I have just arrived at the emergency room after being sent from a local fast ER over possible appendicitis. While we are getting checked in, an older man arrives.)

Man: “I’m having chest pain and pain in my arm.”

Nurse: “We’re taking you back immediately, sir. Please get in this wheelchair.”

Man: “No thanks; I’m good to walk.”

Nurse: “Please, sir, take a seat in the wheelchair.”

Man: “No, I insist I’m good to walk.”

Mom: “Take a d*** seat in the chair. If you’re having a heart attack do you really want to be walking right now?”

(He sat in the chair and grumbled while they took him away.)
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Old 10-30-2019   #517
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One Bjorn Every Minute

Family & Kids, Funny Names, home, New York, USA | Healthy | December 6, 2017


(My husband and I have chosen a name for our child that is rare in our area. We’ve also gone with an older variant of its spelling which has a near silent letter. For the sake of the story let’s say it is Bjorn. Our doctor’s office does confirmation calls for our newborn visits.)

Receptionist: “This is a reminder call from [Family Doctor]’s office that ‘Bejorn’ has an appointment tomorrow at nine am.”

Me: *repeating back as an excuse to give pronunciation* “Bjorn—” *j sounds like a y* “—appointment tomorrow at nine am. Got it. Thank you.”

(At the appointment the receptionist calls for ‘Bejorn.’ I ponder a moment if it is better to correct the pronunciation or let it go. I smile and decide to say something so it doesn’t continue to pop up.)

Me: “It’s actuality Bjorn with the j being a y sound.”

(The receptionist doesn’t seem put off and the rest of the visit goes smoothly. Our family doctor is already familiar with the name having also been the one to deliver him. I’m getting a rare moment of sleep when the office calls to confirm my newborn’s next appointment. The voicemail made me laugh.)

Receptionist: “Hi this is [Receptionist] from [Family Doctor]’s office calling to remind you that…” *long pause where you could almost hear them thinking* “…your SON has an appointment tomorrow at 11 am.”

(Well played.)
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Hungary For Some Medicine

Budapest, Hospital, Hungary | Healthy | December 6, 2017


(When I left Germany for a semester abroad people warned me that every foreign student has at least one horror story to tell from their experience. This one is mine. I go to Hungary. All my classes are in English, and most of the people I interact with are fluent in either English or German, so while I only know the most basic Hungarian — introduction phrases, greetings, how to order food — my Hungarian is not good and I communicate in English most of the time. Two months into my stay, I wake up with massive pain in my ears, and they are wet, like liquid is coming out of them. I call my mother, a nurse, who tells me it might be a middle-ear inflammation and that I need to go see a doctor immediately. But since my European insurance only covers emergencies, I have not been to a doctor so far and have no GP in town. I start searching online for an English-speaking doctor I can go to. I eventually find out that my best bets are the so-called “emergency centres” of each town district, apparently some kind of doctors’ offices where you pay cash and later are reimbursed by your insurance company. I decide to call the centre of my district. The person who answers the phone hands me over to the doctor on call. I describe my symptoms and my suspected diagnosis and she tells me to come to them right away. I take a cab to the office, where I only find a nurse unable to speak English.)

Me: “Hi! I called earlier; I am here to see the doctor.”

Nurse: “No doctor!”

(With both of us using translator apps, we end up establishing that the doctor is not here and I will have to wait two hours. So, I wait in pain, cold, with my nose running like crazy, in the “waiting room,” a room completely empty except for one metal bench. The doctor arrives more than 90 minutes later. While she gathers her tools, I describe my symptoms again. As soon as I mention pain in the ears, she stops and turns around.)

Doctor: “You are in the wrong place. You need to see a specialist.”

Me: “I’m sorry, what? I told you all that on the phone; you told me to come here!”

Doctor: “No, you need to go to the hospital.”

(She gives me a paper that I hope describes the reason she is sending me away, and the name of a hospital. The hospital is way closer to my place than the emergency centre is and I am quite angry, sick and miserable as I am, that I wasted more than two hours when she could have told me to go there on the phone. But it is already past noon by now, on a Friday, so I hurry, as normal business hours will end soon. I reach the hospital. The receptionist, again not an English speaker, motions for me that I am in the wrong place.)

Me: *using my translator app* “I was told to come here!”

(The receptionist brings me inside where a nurse can translate for me that I need to go to another entrance, two buildings down. I thank them and am on my way. By now, I am suffering even worse. My head feels like it will split open, my ears just radiate pain, and my nose is basically dripping like a faucet. I reach the right entrance and hand the paper I got at the emergency centre to the receptionist.)

Receptionist #2 : *pushes the paper back to me and talks fast Hungarian*

Me: “Please, I do not speak Hungarian. Beszelek nincs magyarul!”

(She turns around and ignores me. I use my translator, type in, “Hello. I think I have an middle ear infection. I need a doctor; can you help me?” and hope the app will not mess it up too bad. I show the result to her, but she just looks away. I try to hand her my phone so she can type an answer in the translator, but she pushes it away, too. She ignores all my other attempts of communication. In my desperation, I use my last resort: I call the emergency number. As I am in a European capital, they should have some people speaking English. I finally end up talking to someone that understands me. By now, I am desperate and crying.)

Me: “Hello! I hope you can help me; I need an English-speaking doctor. I went to the emergency centre in [District];they refused to treat me and sent me to [Hospital]. But here, they won’t treat me either, and no one can tell me why! Please, I am in pain; I need a doctor!”

Operator: “That is no problem. I will find the closest doctor! Hmm… Yes… Okay! You need to go to the emergency centre in [District].”

Me: “STOP! I WAS THERE! I JUST TOLD YOU THEY REFUSED TO TREAT ME!”

(I am full-on crying now. I collapse to the floor, sobbing. The foyer is empty except for the receptionist that still ignores me.)

Operator: *sounding angry* “You need to calm down! I cannot understand you when you shout! I told you where to go, so go there! Emergency centre in [District]!”

(Finally, someone notices me. While I disconnect the call, a young med student runs to me, offering her help, and asking me what is wrong. I hand her my paper, explain what I have just been through, and tell her that the receptionist refuses to tell me where to go or to communicate at all. She goes and talks to the receptionist and returns with another piece of paper.)

Student: “Everything is all right. Your doctor sent you here because the ENT-walk-in clinic is here. But the clinic closed at noon. So, you need to go to the surgical ENT-ward. It is really close. I’ll write down the address for you. You go in there, hand the receptionist there your papers, and they will bring you to a doctor.”

(The address is just around the corner from my building. I go there, but when I see the building I lose all hope. I am not standing in front of a hospital; I am standing in front of a fast food place. I just want to go home, but I know that I need pain meds and antibiotics, and the search for a doctor will not get easier on the weekend. So, I enter the next pharmacy I see.)

Me: “I am so sorry, but can you help me? I have been searching for a doctor for more than four hours now. I am in pain, but everyone refuses to treat me! They gave me this address at the hospital, but there is only [Fast Food Place] there! And I know what they say about antibiotics in cow-meat, but I’m pretty sure I need more than a burger right now!”

(The pharmacists rush into action. One leads me to a chair and brings me water while the other one starts using the phone.)

Pharmacist: “Okay, I just talked to the hospital and found out what’s wrong. You need to go to [Address] Square, not [Address] Street. It is about 200 meters down the road. They can help you. Come by after and let us know you were taken care of, sweetie!”

(I finally find the right building. The nurses of the ward won’t talk in English, but with the help of my papers they find me a doctor. He is amazing; he even types up my medical papers twice, one time in Hungarian and one time in English. He even allows me to come back to the ENT-ward the next week for my checkup, so I will not have to go through that trouble again. I go back to the pharmacy to get my meds and the pharmacists hug me and tell me to go home and rest. Sadly, that is not the end of the story. I feel way better after a while. Next Friday I return to the ward for my checkup 20 minutes after they open. I hand the nurses the papers the last doctor gave me, but they seem confused. My translator app message, “Hello, I am here for my checkup with [Doctor]!” is ignored again. A man in scrubs notices me.)

Man: “Can I help you?”

Me: “Yes, I was here last week, [Doctor] told me to come back for my checkup.”

(He talks to the nurses and turns back to me.)

Man: “Someone will be with you in a minute.”

(I sit down in front of the window of the cubicle the nurses sit in and start reading a book. I am in plain sight all the time. I eventually even finish my book. More than two hours have passed. Further communication with the nurses seems futile and I am considering what to do when the man from before comes around the corner again. He sees me, turns red, and starts shouting at the nurses in Hungarian.)

Man: “I am so sorry; a doctor will be with you in a second.”

(As it turns out, that man was the chief resident. My doctor from my last visit had been called out of the ward and the nurses were supposed to tell a different doctor to see to my checkup, but they did not. The other doctor was there in two minutes. I know that I cannot expect all locals to understand English when I am the foreigner in a country whose language I do not speak. But even if you do not have a common language, try to help. Get someone to translate, try to use translator apps, or even use hand movements. But please, do not just ignore a crying girl that is asking for your help!)
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Acting Narcotic Robotic

North Carolina, Pharmacy, USA | Healthy | December 5, 2017


(I have an invisible chronic illness, Chronic Pancreatitis, that was caused by complications from gallbladder surgery a few years back. I am on tons of medication on a daily basis just so I can function normally and work a demanding full-time job. One of these medications is a narcotic; because of the multitudes who abuse it, a lot of judgement is passed on those who legitimately need it.)

Me: “Hi there! Just need to get this filled.”

(I hand my prescription over to a pharmacist that I don’t recognize. These prescriptions are very specific for when you can fill them, and are dated accordingly. Everything on mine is legit, as I literally just left the doctor’s office.)

Pharmacist: *takes a long time to look at it, and keeps looking back up at me* “Are you sure it’s time to fill this again?”

Me: “Um… Well, yeah. I just picked that up from my doctor, and the fill date is listed. You can also check your system, because this is the only pharmacy I use.”

(The pharmacist gives me a weird look and says it’ll be ten minutes, so I go sit down to wait. A few minutes later I hear her on the phone, and I don’t really pay any attention until I hear her say my name. Turns out she is calling my doctor’s office to verify it, the whole time shooting nasty sideways looks at me. Okay, totally fine; I know they have to be careful and check these things, so I brush it off. A couple minutes later when I walk up to the counter to pick it up

Pharmacist: “You know, this stuff is really bad for you. You shouldn’t be taking this.”

Me: *stunned* “Well, it helps me stay upright so I can work. Haha.”

Pharmacist: “My sister was on this and it was horrible. I would have to tell her all the time about how bad it was and that she had to get off of it, and she was addicted. It was really bad and she had such a hard time. You shouldn’t be taking this!”

Me: “Well, I’m going to let my doctor decide that. Can I check out now, please?”

(I understand how many people get hooked on narcotics, and the rising epidemic in this country, but they do have benefits that people like myself need. I don’t even think this lady was worried about the bigger social issue; I think she just got it into her head that it was a horrible medication from her bad experience with her sister. I’m sorry, lady; you are a pharmacist who should know better, and until you gain your medical doctorate and start practicing gastroenterology, keep your opinions about my treatment to yourself!)
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Will Be Getting Ribbed About That Forever

Health & Body, Medical Center, Physical, The Netherlands | Healthy | December 5, 2017


(My uncle has some work-related back pains for which his GP refers him to a physical therapist. The therapy he needs is pretty painful, so when he comes home from a session one day saying the therapist has gotten him good, his wife — my aunt — thinks nothing of it and goes out running errands. When she gets home after a few hours and calls to my uncle to help her with the groceries, she notices he’s moving very carefully, wincing, and not breathing well. When she asks what’s wrong, my uncle tells her his ribs on one side have been hurting bad since therapy, and it isn’t getting better despite taking some painkillers. My aunt gently prods his ribs, eliciting a yelp. Knowing my uncle is pretty tough, my aunt gets worried and pulls up his shirt, uncovering a HUGE blossoming bruise on one side of his back. My aunt freaks out and orders my uncle to get in the car NOW because they’re going to the hospital. On the way there, she gives my uncle the third degree: What did he do? Did he fall? Did he get into a fight? What is he hiding from her? My uncle swears nothing happened; he went to therapy and came back, his ribs have been hurting since, and that’s that. The doctor at the hospital takes one look at the bruise and orders an x-ray, which reveals several BROKEN ribs. The doctor also interrogates my uncle, but gets the same response: all he did was go to physical therapy for his back pains.)

ER Doctor: “Did the therapist work on your ribs as well?”

Uncle: “Well, yes. Wait, are you saying…?”

ER Doctor: “That you should get a different therapist? Yes.”

(My uncle made a full recovery and got a different therapist who cured his back pains. The therapist who broke his ribs is still in practice and also coaches a youth sports team. I was on that team for several years and now hate sports. The guy received a Royal Ribbon for his investment in youth sports.)
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