Medical Workers From Around The World Share Basic Things They Had To Explain To Patients

Medical Workers From Around The World Share Basic Things They Had To Explain To Patients

We can't all be doctors. It takes a decade (or longer) of higher education to learn enough about the human body and its functions to be capable of identifying problems and fixing them. Doctors are experts; that's why we value them so highly.

On the other hand, there are some matters of health and hygiene so basic that everyone ought to know them without being told. And yet...

These medical professionals from around the world recently went online to share very basic things they had to tell adult patients. We think you'll be as surprised as they were.

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40. Piling on

 That you need to take the packaging off the suppository before you insert it. Which in retrospect, is why they were making his piles worse...

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39. How is #1 even physically possible?!

A couple instances come to mind.

1) Don’t have intercourse 6 hours after you delivered a baby.

2) Coffee creamer is not the same as infant formula. Please do not feed your day old newborn International Delight.

3) Probiotics are different from antibiotics. Probiotics do not cure your *ahem* romantic ailments.

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Patient had been referred to my pharmacy by his physician for an OTC enema. The guy was not the sharpest tack, and apparently either his physician did not explain it well or the guy didn't listen, but our conversation went like this:

Pt.: So I drink down this whole bottle and then I'll hafta poop?

Me: No sir, this is an enema. It is used rectally.

Pt. (confused): So what's that mean, I don't hafta drink the whole thing?

Me: No sir, you'll lie on your side and insert the applicator tip of the bottle into your rectum and squeeze the contents into you bowel. You'll then remain lying on your side and hold the enema in until you feel the urge to have a bowel movement.

Pt.: You tellin' me I gotta stick it up my butt?!

Me: Yes sir, this is an enema and it is used rectally. There are detailed instructions and diagrams in the box.


And he stormed off. That was the last I saw of him. Not sure if he thought I was messing with him or what, but I hope he eventually got to go to the bathroom.

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37. Let's share our pills!

Back in the late 90’s, I was a counselor/educator at a women’s health clinic in the northeastern US. One day, a woman came in with her two daughters, 15 and 16. The 16 year old was already our patient and on the pill. The mom had found out the younger one was getting intimate with her boyfriend and wanted her to get tested for STIs.

The mom proudly told me that she had put her younger daughter on the pill herself as soon as she found out she was "active." When I asked the mom who had prescribed the pill, she looked at me like I was an idiot. She told me that when you’re on the pill, you only take it until you get a period, and then start back up a few days after the bleeding stops. Her daughters were just “naturally in sync,” so they could share a pack of pills for the month.

Um. That's not how it works. At all.

The mom wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say. The older sister looked like she understood completely - how to take pills, that her mom was an idiot, and that her sister would be pregnant by Christmas. The younger sister she would be surprised at Christmas.

Fortunately, the doctor saw the girls separately, and they each got their own pills.

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36. A lack of vision

Worked in an optical practice.

Man comes in complaining of bad vision. His astigmatism has increased by like 3 diopters. That's a crap load and definitely shouldn't happen.

Optician retested using different kit. Same result. Told him to come back in a week and we will retest it.

This time we're looking at 4 diopters. They freak out. Recheck again, another optician checks it. Same result.

They run through health, smoking, drinking, medicine. Nothing out of the ordinary. The guy looks stressed as can be, put his head in his hands and put his thumbs against the side of his eyes.

The optician asks if he does that a lot. Apparently whenever he's stressed he pushes the sides of his eyes.

He's done it so much that he has physically changed the front of his eyeball and ruined his vision.

We told him to stop doing that. Never thought we'd have to tell another human being to not squeeze their own eyeballs.

Also had to tell a kid to not look at laser pointers, but he was just dumb as a rock.

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35. Please just read the instructions

Children's oral antibiotics prescribed for ear infections (which are usually pink, sweet, fruit-flavored liquids), are meant to be delivered into the mouth and NOT directly into the ear canal.

Yes. This happens. More often than you can imagine.

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34. And behind door #2...

I took care of a paraplegic at a home (I'm a registered nurse). She was young, and she was attractive. She lived with her boyfriend and kept getting UTIs. This isn't uncommon, she had a catheter and it's something that can be very hard for this population. Well, this patient was talking to me about her sex life and told me her boyfriend liked the back door as well. She has no feeling below the waist. Then it hit me.

I asked if he's going from back door to front door? She said she wasn't sure. So I went and asked him. I had to tell them both that is probably what is causing her UTIs. You can't just go from one to the other without washing or anything.

So, that's what I charted patient education was that day. I had to call her urologist and primary care to let them know we probably found the issue... We all tried to be professional but there was lots of awkward laughing.

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33. Who told you this?!

I had to tell a patient that food cooked in restaurants does in fact have salt (sodium). He was under the impression that they just, didn't? I don't know. I was like, no dude, that's why their food tastes so good.

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32. Round and round in circles

From when I was a resident, working in the living nightmare that is the GYN-ER at a major Florida hospital.

Woman comes in complaining of missed periods. Hasn't had one in two months.

Me: Do you think there is any chance you may be pregnant?

Patient: No! That's impossible.

Me: Do you have a partner?

Patient: Yes, of course.

Me: Do you use protection?

Patient: No.

Me: Do you think you might be pregnant??

Repeat for 15 minutes.

I swear, we could have reduced the number of visits to that ER by stapling a bag of pregnancy tests to the door with a sign saying "Think you're pregnant? Take one!" And tacking an ultrasound probe to the door with a sign saying, "Want a picture of the baby? We use this to take the ultrasound."

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31. Did you think this was optional?

Me: “Did you miss a dose of [insert medicine name here]?”

Pt: “No, I take it every day.”

Me: “How many times did you not take [previously named medicine] in the past week?”

Pt: “Three and I skipped this morning too.”

This happens probably once a week.



30. You need a pharmacist around you at all times, it seems

I can believe it. Been in pharmacy for 9 years now and for the past few, counseling with the pharmacist is mandatory on all new prescriptions. People will throw an absolute fit about how they don't need to talk to the pharmacist and know what the heck they're doing.

Pharmacist: "Okay, humor me. Walk me how through how to use this medicine."

They've stopped so many people from putting amoxicillin in their kids' ears/eyes, swallowing suppositories, eating Miralax powder dry, shoving birth control into their various private parts. I don't want to go on.

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29. Way to stay hydrated

I worked in Hospital Administration for nearly two years. While working on something I decided to take a break and go down to the cafeteria to get something to eat and not look at numbers.

While there, a woman was on the phone with someone and was pretty openly talking about how she kept drinking the night before surgeries to calm her nerves and how she thought it was ridiculous that the doctors couldn’t/wouldn’t just pump her stomach so they could get the surgery started.

Now I don’t know all of the details on what she was getting done, nor was I there for her presumed tirade on our doctors as she was prepped for whatever it is she needed done, but I am grateful I wasn’t. She continued this conversation for probably a minute with her friend completely oblivious to how ridiculous she sounded.

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28. People don't seem to get cause and effect

The 3 that come to mind for me are:

(1) Trying to explain to a patient why it probably wasn't a good idea to eat a container of cottage cheese that had been sitting out on the counter all night.

(2) The entire family of a lady with a pacemaker, they kept insisting that she did not have a history of heart problems. They were convinced, that because the pacemaker helped her that it meant she no longer had any kind of heart problem.

(3) Family with a mom that was 650 pounds. If they wanted to move her anywhere, they would have to call the fire department - they were always apologetic and such and said they just didn't know why she was so heavy and that she's tried everything to loose weight. But all around her bed, there's nothing but Butterfinger, Babe Ruth, Reese cup packages, fast food bags. I'm like, she can't walk on her own! Bring her a salad. All this junk and no movement is why she's so heavy.

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27. Very mature adult male behavior

Old friend of mine is a Nurse Practitioner. She told me she once saw a patient, male, complaining of severe butt itching and general pain.

She is a very smart people-person, she can read people very well. She got right to the point and asked him about his daily hygiene routine. She had a hunch based off his presentation that he was a "man's man."

Long story short, when showering, he NEVER cleaned his butt. Ever. He told her, that it was "homosexual" to touch his butt in any way, even for the purposes of washing.

She had to explain to him that the severe rash and itching he had been dealing with for apparently YEARS was a direct result of his perceived "homo acts."

She instructed him to go home, take a proper shower, and apply witch hazel for a few days.

Amazing that a grown man thinks this way.

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26. It's not a pocket, people

A patient came in with a complaint of “foreign body” in her private parts. Doc goes in to do the pelvic exam, pulls out unopened, sealed bottle of five-hour energy drink. Cue her explanation of hiding it from her spouse because he doesn’t like for her to drink energy drinks. Then she asks for it back so she can drink it.

Don't hide bottles of five-hour energy in your birth canal. Just don't do it.


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25. Education is really important

That having sex gets you pregnant. It was a 20+ year old woman that couldn't grasp the idea that hooking up leads to pregnancy. She thought that in order for a man and a woman to have children, they needed to be married first and then have a baby, that physical intimacy was just an act unrelated to it.

Then again, we are talking about a small rural community in the middle of freaking-nowhere, Mexico.

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24. I want my baby to be a model

Community health nurse here. I had to explain to a pregnant patient that smoking to keep her baby's weight down is in fact a not good method of ensuring a less difficult labor/delivery.

(In a terrible way to be fair, I believe this was actually advertised back of packs in the past by tobacco companies and people who didn't know any better, and so has become a wive's tale, or old 'knowledge' in some places.)

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23. I just can't!

I had a 16-year-old girl present with abdominal discomfort and nausea. I was assessing her and she hadn't had her period for about 6-8 weeks. I asked her if she was romantically active and she said yes. I asked her about birth control and she said she didn't take any because she couldn't get pregnant.

I then inquired as to what medical condition she had that prevented her from getting pregnant. "What? I don't have any conditions. I just can't get pregnant." Quote un-freaking quote.

Guess who was pregnant? Dumb 16-year-old girl that couldn't get pregnant. I was dumbfounded by her stupidity. On a positive note, the boyfriend stuck with her and I saw her again a few years later. She had graduated high school and was applying for colleges.

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22. Puff-puff pass

I saw a patient for a follow up after three ER visits in as many days for asthma. He was from another country, so this was the first time I ever met him. His lungs sound absolutely terrible, but he swears he is taking the inhaler every 2-4 hours with no relief. This raises suspicion to me, as the same meds are working in the ER. I ask him to show me how he is using it. He holds it about a foot away from his mouth and does two puffs like Binaca and swallows. I felt really bad, he had never received any education about his illness or medications.

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21. That's one way to do it

Got placed doing a rotation on the orthopedic floor of a big hospital in a rural area of Southern California. I was doing my rounds and saw a patient out of bed and walking around the floor following a knee replacement. She had a cane in her hand that she was carrying like as a solider would carry a rifle. I asked what she was doing and what she thought the cane was for. She replied she thought the cane was for pushing people out of her way since she's now "handicapped" and it wasn't to help her walk on her post op knee.

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20. You're gonna love when you get the bill

That coming to the ER for a pregnancy test is a very very expensive way to do it. Apparently she didn't know you could buy one at the Rite-Aid down the block. Seriously, don't come to the ER for a pregnancy test, cause the test results won't be the only surprise you'll be getting.

Also, if you have diabetes, that you need to take your medication. No, 'getting fatter' isn't the worst that can happen. The worst that can happen is that you'll die. That's why you're in the ER with diabetic ketoacidosis and suffering organ damage. It's why you're gonna lose your toes. Take your goddamn meds.

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19. That's a weirdly specific idea...

Paramedic here. Was driving with my partner and patient in the back. Patient was fine. Patient's skeezy boyfriend was riding in the front with me and apparently saw a golden opportunity to ask a question that had obviously been on his mind for some time.

Him: So when cats and dogs eat grass, that means they have cancer, right?

Me: Ummm. No. No it does not.

Made for an awkwardly silent ride the rest of the way.

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18. Mom found the cure for acne

A mother came in with her son to discuss treating his acne. Son was about 15 years old and didn't really care about the acne but mom did. After going over treatment options she asked if he just needed to "do it" to get rid of the acne. A grown woman with a child thought that by him getting his rocks off, his acne would magically go away... Okay, then.

It seems that many people think that being a teenager =  having acne, thus doing it for the first time makes you a man and you will therefore no longer have acne. Odd thought process, but there it is.. 

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17. You kinda have to make a choice here

This patient comes in at 2am for insomnia, clearly tweaking her brains out, heart rate 200. Can't sit still, bouncing off the walls. I suggest maybe easing up on the substance use and partying. Her reply? "But doctor, I LOVE to party!" Yeah, sweetie, I know.

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16. A public service announcement

"I don't want my baby to get a vaccine because Jenny McCarthy's book says her son got Autism from the Thimerosal in his MMR vaccine." A couple things:

  • Jenny McCarthy is a one time playboy model who wants to sell you her books.
  • MMR is a live vaccine and does not contain Thimerosal.
  • Thimerosal contains Ethylmercury which clears from your body in a ~10 days unlike methylmercury which stays for months and actually causes damage.
  • Measles killed 135,000 people in the world LAST YEAR.
  • Autism has a strong genetic component. If one identical twin has it, there is a 75% chance the other will as well.
    with 75% of identical twins both having autism.
  • Andrew Wakefield faked the research linking autism to MMR vaccine, lost his license to practice medicine, and made millions helping lawyers sue and selling books. He lives in a mansion in England.

I went to school for 11 years, spent 10,000 hours studying and just want to make sure your child stays healthy. Quit thinking your 5 minutes of internet research means anything, get over yourself, and vaccinate your bloody baby.

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15. Playing with the king of hearts

I'm a paramedic and recently transported an idiot who self presented to the local hospital, who found he was having a heart attack and needed him sent to a bigger hospital for treatment.

During my assessment I asked him how long he'd been having chest pain. On and off for twelve months, he tells me.

Any family history? (One of the biggest indicators.) Oh, yes. Dad died of a heart attack. Brother died of a heart attack. Both of them first presentation, stone dead on the spot, no messing around.

So... you have a 12 month history of intermittent chest pain, and a family history of your closest male relatives spontaneously chucking hearties and dying, and you've never got it investigated. Furthermore, the only reason you came to the hospital tonight is because your family badgered you into it.

I told him he needed a solid kick in the arse. To his credit, he agreed.

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14. Cold doesn't give you a cold

So I'm an EMT, but I want to weigh in here on this conversation.

I had to tell a patient with severe pneumonia (and the patient's family) that you don't get sick (i.e. catch a cold) by leaving your skin exposed. The family was vehemently debating me on the fact claiming that I had no idea what I was talking about because I'm not a doctor.

Attempting to explain to them the necessity for a foreign body to enter your system was the most preposterous thing to them.

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13. The old wait and see approach

Lady had a broken jaw. She comes in after 2 weeks with an open mandible fracture. Referred her to the hospital for immediate surgery. She never went because it "doesn't bother her and she'll see if it gets better.”

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12. A breeder but certainly not a reader

I worked at a vet clinic when I was in high school. One day a vet came out of an exam room and asked me how to tell whether a puppy was a girl or a boy. Thinking it was a joke or a trick question, I said "You flip them over and look, right?" The vet sighed and walked away.

Apparently this client who fancied herself a breeder (multiple litters at this point, expensive breed) had asked dead seriously how you tell if a puppy is a boy or a girl.

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11. An emergency manicure

We had someone come into the emergency room because her nails really needed redoing... This woman genuinely thought it was a good idea to go to accident and emergency to have her fake nails taken off and redone because they had gotten too long and become uncomfortable. No matter how we tried to frame it, she just couldn't seem to understand that needing a manicure was not an emergency situation.

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10. Gummy mummy

We used to help the Amish to get dental care -- not a strong suit in their communities. One Amish woman complained that she needed new dentures. When asked why she thought so, she replied, "Well, I've lost weight, and you know that when you lose weight, you lose it in your gums first."

Doctors and dentists: if you're looking for a community to serve, the Amish can truly use your help. I could write a book about the things I've seen.

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9. Thanks for everything, mom and dad

I had severe asthma as a kid. I was intubated for a sever attack a few times. My parents were instructed to take better precautions in our home and went through instructions, more dusting, washing bedsheets etc.. and the big one NO SMOKING inside the house. So my parents agree to all of this.

Few weeks later I'm back in the hospital. A doctor recognized me and came over to talk. Then he bent over and smelled my head (I'll never forget that. I thought it was so weird). He told a nurse to sit there and not let me leave with my parents. When my parents showed up he asked point blank:

"Did you not understand what I told you last time? Do you understand these attacks could be fatal?"

"But we open windows and have stopped smoking in her room when we put her to bed.” 

Parents of the century.

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8. That's why you don't kiss without protection

I'm a dental hygienist and once was telling a patient after a cleaning that she had gingivitis. She replies with, "I must have caught it from my boyfriend." Had to explain to her that it's because she doesn't brush/floss enough. She was 36.

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7. It's my [bleep] in a box!

Patient made an appointment and brought in his poop in a box. He was concerned about the size of his turd, and wanted me to check whether or not it's normal. All he got from the visit was, "Normal turd. Yes, it's pretty wide. No real reason for concern."

This turd box was set out with the daily biohazard waste. The waste guy unfortunately thought it was a misplaced package and put it on the front desk. The secretary got quite the surprise that day when she came back from lunch.

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6. Club meds

My brother is a general practitioner in rural Tennessee. Enough said, right?

He says most of his patient visits go about like this:

MD: "Well, you're pre diabetic, have high blood pressure, and are complaining about joint pain. Have you been exercising and cutting out sugar and carbs like we talked about?"

Person: "Yeah I have, doc, but it doesn't seem to help. Do you have any better meds you could prescribe?"

MD: "Well, let's talk about your diet. How much water do you drink a day?"

Person: "I don't like water, so I get extra ice in my sweet tea every day to make sure I get enough water."

MD: "Just having ice in your drinks is not the same as drinking water. How much sweet tea are you drinking every day? Those can have a lot of sugar in them."

Person: "Well, I get a large one from Hardee's/McDonalds/wherever on my way to work with my breakfast, and another one on my way home for dinner. Then I have a glass or two when I get home."

MD: "Well, that's a lot of sugar. And a lot of fast food if you are eating it twice a day. What do you eat at home?"

Person: "I don't like to cook so I usually don't eat anything but little Debbie snack cakes at home."

MD: "Those have a lot of sugar in them too..."

Person: "I thought that all I had to do was cut out Mountain Dew! Now you're saying I can't eat my food or my snacks?! What are you suggesting I do? Eat salads for every meal?! Why can't you just up my meds?!"


5. Was this woman secretly Wilford Brimley?

I was waiting to get my colonoscopy done a couple of years ago and they were asking the lady in the next station if she'd fasted. They went through all the questions and double checked that she had fasted, then after confirming, almost as an aside she throws in that she had oatmeal for breakfast that morning.

Nurse: Ma'am, fasting means you can't eat anything before the exam.

Lady: I know. But I always have oatmeal for breakfast.

Nurse: I understand. But you can't eat before this exam. The doctor has to look at your digestive system.

Lady: But oatmeal is good for digestion.

Nurse: You can't eat anything before this exam. You have to be completely fasted so he can look at your intestines.

Lady: But I always have oatmeal for breakfast.

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4. Orange you glad you asked?

We had a diabetic patient who kept coming back with extremely high sugars. We asked him if he was following the regiment we taught him...testing his blood sugar, using the sliding scale, measuring the correct dose of insulin in the needle etc. He went through all the steps and it sounded like he was doing everything right.

We asked him to demonstrate the steps he took so we could observe and correct any mistakes he may have been making. He did everything correctly until the very last step. He drew up the insulin in his syringe, pulled an orange out if his bag, injected the insulin into the orange, then ate it.

Turns out when he was taught to practice how to give himself subcutaneous injections with oranges he didn't realize he actually needed to inject himself for the insulin to do its job.

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3. This fills me with uncontrolable rage

Doctor here.

I think the most frustrating I've seen since I was a resident was a very pretty (like stunningly pretty) 17 year old with what appeared to be normal, loving, affluent parents. She had a tumor in her pelvis (rhabdomyosarcoma) that we could resect to potentially cure her. The parents declined, also declined chemo and said they want to try holistic medicine because that made more sense to them.

I last saw her 3 years ago, she was getting huge lymph nodes removed from her groin because they were unsightly. Obviously metastatic disease. Parents did not want primary tumor removed and again declined chemo.

I see 100 patients/week probably, lots of devastatingly sad cases. But I still think about that girl, listening to her parents, costing her life. I bet she's dead now.

I can assure people, doctors are not trying to swindle you, give you unnecessary care, or have some ulterior motive in this sort of setting. 99.99% of doctors are treating patients the same way they'd treat family, so try not to be dense, we want to help.

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2. But does she, like, have to push?

I worked in obstetrics for many years.

I was taking care of a woman in her late twenties who was giving birth, definitely not a teen mom, married, with a job. She got to 10 centimeters so I did my usual speech about how to push effectively. She nods and pushes when I tell her and she did great, really moved the baby down. I’m excited but I notice she’s whispering to her husband.

He looks at me and says, “So why do you want her to do that?” I was a bit taken aback and very slowly explained that she had to that to get the baby out. She asked if I was kidding. At this point I feel like I’m the butt of a practical joke, but it didn’t stop. He kept asking if there wasn’t “a better way to do it” and muttering that I was being ridiculous.

She continued to push and thankfully didn’t take long because she kept rolling her eyes at me. I was thrilled to hand this lovely couple off to the doctor. They looked slightly more convinced when he told her to do exactly what I had told her to do and then a baby magically appeared. If she’d ended up in a c-section I’m sure she’d have been convinced I had done it all to torture her.

How does a woman make it into adulthood in normal society without knowing you have to push a baby out?

And then there was the time a woman got mad when I told her there was absolutely no way we could do her cesarean laparoscopically.

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1. Well, now that you mention it...

I had a patient scheduled for an appointment. Looked through his notes to gain an idea of why he may be seeing me and saw he'd been seen a few times with knee pains/shoulder pains and the like. The guy is in his 70s so probably just arthritis. I'm thinking I'll do an examination of his sore joints and ask a few questions, prescribe some painkillers and it'll be a quick one.

Call him in and he walks in sits down and is cheery as anything.

"What seems to be the problem then, sir? I notice you've had some issues recently with sore joints" I ask.

He then proceeds to tell me about this sore knee. So I check his knee and take a history and it all seems fine. Ask anything else and he's like oh actually my neck is sore too. So I check his neck and nothing untoward to be found there either. At this point he's like "ok well thanks doc I'll be off then."

I say to him "glad we could help. And you have no other pains at all before you go?" He then sits back down and tells me he's been having central, crushing chest pain radiating down his left arm and into his jaw since last night and has been feeling breathless and when it happened he had an impending sense of doom.

I know a lot of you won't be doctors here but I'm sure you all recognize signs of a heart attack there. He had all the classic textbooks symptoms.

Called an ambulance and he was rushed to hospital for PCI. (Percutaneous coronary intervention - thread a catheter up the arteries into the coronary artery to find and then treat the blockage - sorry for the medical acronym.)

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