I went out today – and saw an alcoholic, a COPD, a couple of heart failures, a handful of kids with chest infections and at least three anosias.
“But”, I hear you shout, “yesterday you told us you would be working on Sunday, today is Saturday – so how could you see these patients?”. The answer is fairly simple – I just went shopping.
The problem with being surrounded by patients for twelve hours a day (first as a nurse, then to a lesser extent as an EMT), is that your eye is automatically drawn toward people with obvious symptoms. It's not just your eye – a trained ear can hear the cough of a child with a chest infection, or the puff and wheeze of a chronic bronchitis.
I suspect doctors have the same problem, the constant inspection of clubbing in the fingers, the subliminal inspection of the eyes, and the unconscious appraisal of someone's gait.
In some part, it's because you are trained to look for what is wrong with people – but equally, there is that desire not to be around the person who is most likely to have a heart attack in front of you. At least when you aren't on duty. This is why, when the 80 year old female with ankles the size of tree trunks, and blue lips decides to hit the pavement, there won't be a medical professional to be seen for miles.
It's not that we are lazy, or that we have no heart for our fellow man when we aren't getting paid for it – just that without any of our 'kit', there is very little we can do to look busy, or effective. Without equipment, the options are CPR (if their heart has stopped), the recovery position (if they are unconscious) or a “there, there”, with a bit of hand holding if it is a grazed knee.
Of course, the first thing to do is to call for an ambulance.
(The anosia patients are those teenage girls who think that the best way to attract a slack-jawed mate is to empty half a bottle of cheap perfume over their heads – do they not know what they smell like?)
In completely unrelated stuff: The “Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy” Internet only trailer is a thing of pure joy. And my mobile phone has taken one too many dives onto the unforgiving concrete – and so I will be getting a replacement (same model – gotta love phone insurance) tomorrow.