By my calculations Keith and I have been BB inhabitants for precisely 18 months. That has been sufficient time to get settled into the community and to make a few dear friends. It has also been enough time for a good proportion of Broken Bow-ites to have needed our services in the clinic or ER, and thus recognize us in the streets.
As the "homemaker" of our domicile I am generally the one out doing errands and jaunting about town. It is not uncommon on these escapades for me to be stopped by a patient, or a patient's family member when they have a question or comment about their medical condition. I always thought when I went into medicine that this would not bother me. I felt that I liked helping people, and if I had to sacrifice a few personal minutes out of my day to do that, so be it-- it would be enjoyable. What I didn't fully conceptualize was the types of things people would stop me about and the completely inconvenient times they would stop me.
For example, yesterday I had a 30 minute slot between patients when I planned to pop down to the hospital's annual rummage sale and hunt for treasures. I scarcely passed through the doors when a patient cut me off to ask me about her husband's recent blood work. "What were the numbers?" she demanded. I was torn between repeating a conversation with her which I had had on MANY occasions versus finding cool, cheap stuff. Of course I did my best to answer her questions.
When I finally elbowed my way past all the elderly thrifters and their shopping carts to the back of the rummage sale (where the books and LPs are) a woman identifying herself as a neighbor (I am learning that anyone in a 1/2mile radius is a neighbor) stopped me to talk about her husband whom I had pronounced dead in the hospital. I nodded sympathetically then awkwardly went back to sifting through the LPs.
The next day, equally as hurried, I planned a quick stop at the grocery store. As I was loading up on sale peppers a patient's mother veered out of her way to come talk to me about her son. I had seen him in the ER the night before, and he was still hurting. This was a 28 year old man who had twisted his ankle when he hopped out of his pick-up truck. He was just certain he had broken it even though all of his x-rays were normal. She wanted to let me know that the 800mg of ibuprofen wasn't touching the pain, and he wanted to be re-evaluated for a fracture (I'll have to make a separate post someday about the incredible wimpiness of 20-something year old males). When I started to offer suggestions the mother told me that she didn't necessarily want me to do anything, she just wanted to share. I simply looked at her, silently wondering why she felt this was an appropriate vegetable department conversation.
My anonymity is a thing of the past. My medical school ideals of being available to those who needed me at any given time still exist, but the problem is that a rummage sale or a grocery store are simply not practical places to diagnose and treat, and unfortunately too many people somehow feel it is okay to infringe on my personal time for relatively trivial problems.
If I could send a message to all Broken-Bowans it would be this: I cannot diagnose your daughter's knee injury when she is not even present. You are lucky if I can remember your name much less you husbands blood work. And I find it terribly awkward to discuss your continued rectal pain and bleeding in the supermarket. Please take note.