Scutmonkey Chronicles

Commentary on healthcare in general, life as a medical student, and issues of concern thereof. Readers warmly encouraged to contribute their "best" and "worst" experiences with the healthcare system (who knows, some budding young doctor might learn something from your pain...?) Submit via comments section, or email me at if you'd like to become a regular contributor. Welcome, and don't forget to double-glove!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Human Hearts and Housecalls

What a great month. Spent the last four weeks learning cardiology, soaking up an unexpected amount of knowlege while tagging along with an eccentric, wild, compassionate, and great doctor. (One of very few doctors I know of who still makes house calls.)

I did not start off this rotation with high expectations, because:
  • I eeked by in first-year "cards." One of those deals where you pick up your test in the dean's office and they give you "the look."
  • The course director of the rotation is a well-known hard ass, and I'm famously bad about people who get in my face.
  • The doc I was assigned to follow in the lottery had a reputation for being sort of eccentric. Not that I mind eccentric, but faced with having to pass Dr. Hard Ass's killer exit exam, this did not seem like an ideal setup.

Good thing I'm often wrong.

This experience was the diametric opposite of what happened first year:

  • I'd sit down to read the stuff, it would make sense, and I'd remember it. Even the EKGs started to fall into place.
  • The guy I rotated with explained his part of things in "very simple bear" terms that I got, and was very funny and entertaining to boot. Sometimes eccentric is a big plus.
  • On Monday mornings, when Dr. Hardass the Course Director would lock the twenty of us in a room and zing hardball questions at us, I'd do ok. (Although he still seems to not enjoy my sense of humor, but that's too bad. Especially now that I've nailed his exam. Nailed as in "honors." Put that in your Hard Ass pipe and smoke it...)

One of the most positive things about finishing this rotation was realizing that this shit is starting to sink in, and I'm as capable of applying it as anybody else. Another positive was the house calls with my preceptor. I saw some weird, shocking stuff, but learned a ton about putting compassion into practice by participating in these wild jaunts to take care of inner-city shut-ins.

Ok, I probably should not say "weird and shocking" without going into at least a little detail. Let me tell you about my first two housecall patients and let you use your imagination from there.

  • Patient One: widow of taxidermist. Every square inch of living room wall covered in animal cranium. Left to right: deer, deer, moose, bobcat, dear, elk. Live chihuahua in plastic crate, seeming to wonder if he is next. Shocked med student who shall remain nameless, dangerously close to unintentional bladder emptying after being sent to grab medicine case out of bedroom and coming face to face with black bear on hind legs.
  • Patient Two: seven-hundred pound man who has not left apartment in six years, and who earns living running mail-order porn business. (Yes ladies, he IS single...)

Enough said. Like I said, good thing I'm often wrong.