ndab Ah Yes, Medical School: Hmm...That Was Awkward

Friday, June 17, 2005

Hmm...That Was Awkward

I'm not sure what it is about the white coat, but whenever I put it on and go to my preceptor (a doctor who lets first and second year medical students practice their skills), it somehow brings out the innermost thoughts, emotions, fears, and desires in the patients I see, who are suddenly willing to share all of these personal aspects of their lives with me, a complete stranger (amazingly attractive, yes, but still a complete stranger). If I were slightly less tired and massively more mature, I would probably wax philosophical on this topic and delve into the special nature of the white coat and how this is an incredible aspect of the profession I will one day, in theory, be entering. Instead, I'd like to take a detour and demonstrate that because of (or in spite of) this phenomenon of openness when a white coat is present, the white coat also brings out some of the most awkward conversations I have ever experienced. Case in point, my final preceptor visit this morning (what, you thought I was on vacation?). I was called in to see a LOL in NAD (little old lady in no apparent distress - see, I'm learning things...or at least remembering what I read in The House of God), who told the nurse she'd be willing to talk to a student. What follows is the beginning of my visit, as close to verbatim as I can remember:

Me: Hi Ms. ___, thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
LOL: Oh no problem...
Me: O.K., so how ar-
LOL: Actually I don't normally bother with students, but there was a special reason I wanted to talk to you.
Me: Uhh...OK...
LOL: Ya, so I'm getting on in years and I guess I don't have much time left.
Me: [About to launch into a "You're doing great!" pep talk]
LOL: But anyways, I donated my body to your anatomy department and I wanted to meet one of you medical students while I was still alive.
Me: [mouth gaping]
LOL: Ya, I wanted to meet one of you while I was still alive and before you all cut me open and poked at my body when I'm a corpse. [Points to her noticeably frail and wrinkled body] My husband signed up for it too. So remember there was a nice old lady once before you all cut me up.

I mean seriously, what the hell am I supposed to say to that?

On an awkward scale of 1-10, with 1 being the least awkward (a typical blind date) and 10 being the most awkward (a blind date with me), I'd have to put this at least at a 6 or 7, if only because it was almost necessary to spend the entire first year of medical school forgetting that cadavers were once human beings, much less human beings that talked and that I'd ever meet, in order to do what we had to do to them. Basically, as she said this, I had images of my cadaver opening his eyes and trying to have a conversation about politics while my scalpal was slicing open his left testicle. I realize this sounds really awful, but I guess this is something you can only understand after spending a year cutting open a cadaver.

Since I am no expert at these things anyways, perhaps you'd like to fill in what you would have said in response to the LOL if you were me, and make a note of this in the comments section.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

OH, man, that would definately be ackward.
Sitting here at home, the first rational thing that pops into my mind is, "So, why did you decide to donate your body," but had someone just told me that they wanted me to remember them when I was cutting them open, I doubt that'd be what came out of my mouth.

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Probably something like "Being one of those students who benefited from donations like yours, I can only say how thankful I am." or something like that. More likely in the moment though I would have said (or at least thought), "Eeks, note to self stick to non-potential cadaver donors." :)

1:18 PM  
Blogger Ms. Charisma said...

Only 6 or 7?!?!?!

And, I can't imagine a blind date with you being awkward at all!

8:49 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Ahhh this is hilarious! As one who fainted her way through anatomy class, I think this would have DONE IN my career! Great story!

8:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I'll keep that in mind next time I'm forced to fingerbang a fresh corpse oozing feces all over his genitals."

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A similar thing happened to me one time when I was meeting people at a function. I was about to give a speech and a guy started talking to me telling me how he was about to donate his body and how that would no doubt be very soon. To make matters worse, he was deep in the throes of a degenerative neurological disease that made it very difficult for me to understand him and prompted him to repeat himself several times, with increasing volume each time. Now picture how embarassing/awkward that would be in a room alone, and then multiply it by a billion or so with your university president, every major university player, a Nobel laureate, and respected community members around, who were all lead to believe you were intelligent and thoughtful. Sh*t.

9:28 AM  
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8:54 PM  
Anonymous Jib said...

I would've said:

Hey, we're all extremely grateful for your sacrifice. Then I'd humiliate her by lying about how my army father and brother also signed up their body for medicine after they died protecting her freedom.

7:42 PM  

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