Tell Me That Didn’t Happen

Enough talk about books. Today I will debase myself.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the funny doctor’s stories circulating on the Internet. They’re always good for a laugh. But often these jokes are at the patient’s expense.

Well, not today, folks. Today, the expense is all mine.

Travel back in time with me, back to an era of leggings, patterned sweaters, and scrunchies. Back to my days of residency training. This is my gift to you—four tales of humiliation sustained by yours truly. Relax and enjoy …

The Not-Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Sad

1. The Not-Good

Here I am, post-call from a night in the pediatric ICU, trudging to my weekly afternoon clinic. Tired, showerless, and still in scrubs, I whip out my happy face and greet my first patient, a five-year-old girl with a painful ear. After conducting the history, I smile and wheel my stool closer to the child, now perched upon her mother’s lap. As I lean in to auscultate her lungs, she turns to her mother and shouts, “Pew, Mommy, she stinks!”

Yeah? Well, you try smelling fresh and breezy after an adrenaline-fueled thirty hours in the PICU, Little Miss Antiperspirant!

She’s stinkier than this disgusting brown blob, Mommy.

2. The Bad

On a similar vein, again post-call, again exhausted from yet another stressful rotation, a different plucky youth in my afternoon clinic focuses his laser-like gaze on my generous beak. Then he widens his eyes and suddenly proclaims, “That pimple is huge!”

Aw, thanks Mr. Benzoyl Pediatric.

3. The Ugly

Flash forward to a couple years later. I’m now chief resident. I’m skilled. I’m professional. I’m delighted to pass time in my clinic after a full eight-hours of sleep. Eager to see my first patient, a fresh-from-the-womb newborn, I bound into the room and greet a young woman and a silver-haired man, the latter of whom is holding the baby.

“Hello, I’m Carrie Rubin,” I say. “So nice to meet you.” Then, glancing at the older man, I add in an exuberant tone, “And how wonderful that Grandpa could join us!”

The room falls silent. The mother looks at me, and with a voice that could melt an igloo, says, “This is my husband, the baby’s father.”

Oops.

4. The Sad

Now I am post-residency, newly employed in a group practice that maintains weekend hours at a different clinic site. During my first Saturday shift in the unfamiliar exam rooms, I repeatedly open and shut drawers, hoping to find what I need—tongue blades, strep swabs, alcohol pads.

Later on, after removing staples from a child’s scalp laceration as part of his ER follow-up, I am relieved the simple procedure went smoothly. No bleeding, no discomfort, no crying. And the wound is healing well. But just to be safe, I’ll cover the site with antibacterial ointment.

Once again floundering in the drawers for the desired object, I finally spot a small packet of Bacitracin and pull it out. While I discuss with the family wound-care instructions, I apply the ointment. Once finished, I pat the child on the back and wave the family on their way.

As I turn back to the examination table to clean up my mess, the label on the empty packet of ointment catches my eye. I pause. I suck in a breath.

I have just applied a liberal coating of KY Jelly to my patient’s head.

Oh, yeah, that will keep the infection away.

Lubricating jelly…Bacitracin…Eh, what’s the diff? (Image credit: tigermedical.com)

All images from Microsoft Clip Art unless otherwise indicated

140 Responses to “Tell Me That Didn’t Happen”

  1. Katherine Checkley

    This was very enjoyable to read! It’s funny the things you remember. I came across your blog from Sylver Blaque’s site. It’s wonderful. A doctor and a writer?! That’s very impressive. Now following.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you! I’m so glad you stopped by. I’ve been perusing your site as well, and I love how you present your posts in such a readable style (numbering lists, bolding key points). Great information, too!

      Like

  2. Joanna Aislinn

    I love work war stories, especially those with a medical bent. I’m sure I could list tons, but the one that jumps out came from a lady who’d probably had some hip surgery or some other ortho condition that required upper body strengthening during her inpatient rehab stay.

    All I remember is setting her up (every day) and somehow forgetting she was there b/c of physically needier patients. One day she yells across the rehab gym: “Joanna, you have a mind like a sieve when it comes to me!” Uh, that I did.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Ha ha! Maybe that patient should be a writer. “A mind like a sieve” is a pretty good simile.
      🙂

      I thought of you Monday night while I watched DWTS. Looks like it will be a fun season–they’re all so good! And I know how uncool I’ve just made myself by announcing to the rest of the readers that I watch that show…

      Like

      • Joanna Aislinn

        If you’re ‘uncool’ b/c you inferred you’ll watch my DWTS, imagine what a geek I am, lol. Hate that anyone has to go home. Someone tweeted something about not having eliminations. Why not, esp. for an ‘all-start’ season? Let each couple dance every week and let viewers vote. Announce who might be in jeopardy on any given week–or eliminate a few every three weeks or so. IDK, it IS an all-star season.

        Geez, did I REALLY go on like that? So what’s the next step up (or down?) from GEEK? DWEEB?

        Like

        • Carrie Rubin

          You’re a softie, aren’t you? Not wanting any of those folks to go home. I can’t say I’m sad to see Pamela Anderson leave. Nothing against her–she’s just not one of my favorites. I suppose I’ll feel differently if Gilles gets sent home…

          Like

          • Joanna Aislinn

            No Pamela = No Tristan. Serious 😦 As much as I like him though, I get a little tired of Pamela’s persona. Seems like she always has to keep up ‘the kitten,’ know what I mean? Feel like she doesn’t show her true self.

            The day William Levy got voted off, even as last season’s 2nd runner up…

            Like

  3. Fathead Follies

    I think KY is a cure-all. And I think in general it is always best to be well lubricated. I bet he got on the bus so much easier.
    The very first scenario also made me laugh because my son just did the same thing to a nice lady at the YMCA, plugging his nose and announcing repeatedly “she stinks”. I tried to claim the stink as my own to make it up for her, but the damage was done. Now that I think about it I should have just told her that he says the same thing about everything I cook.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Children–they’re just the sweet little apple of our eyes, aren’t they?

      And you’re right–having a well-lubricated head can protect against all sorts of hazards…

      Like

  4. acflory

    rofl – I’m sorry I’m still busy chuckling at the grandpa story. I’ll come back to you on my own bouts of foot in mouth!

    Like

  5. Smaktakula

    These are funny, and I feel your pain, Connie. When I was younger, I had a real problem with this kind of thing, because my mouth would engage much more quickly than my brain. I’m a lot better about it now.

    I must’ve gotten burned on the “old dad/mom” one in high school, because I’m VERY careful about that. Even when someone is obviously the grandparent, I ask, “Is that your little boy?” Usually, they’ll laugh, give me a funny look (but not the same as if I’d asked a parent if he/she were a grandparent!) and say, “No, I’m the grandparent!”
    But the piece d’resistance is the thing I do next. I don’t SAY anything, just go on with the conversation, but from my face it’s clear I’m surprised that someone obviously so young-looking is a grandparent. It’s MONEY, I tell you!

    I may have mentioned this before, but about ten years ago I was working with a customer really biffed it. I was writing a policy for a woman and had to fill in her occupation. I knew she was a homemaker, but instead of asking “are you a homemaker,” I said, “are you just a homemaker.” I really regret this still, because it’s such an insulting question (although I didn’t intend it that way). I still got the policy but the customer was really upset because she thought I was denigrating the very real work a homemaker does (and although at that time I was single and childless, I still had a pretty good appreciation of what a homemaker does, although not like now). She actually wrote me a letter about it, and I responded with a letter of my own (an apology; no excuses–they RUIN apologies). I never saw her face-to-face again. I don’t think I’d recognize her if I saw her now, which is too bad, because we’d probably have a lot to talk about.

    Rubbing KY Jelly into a child’s scalp has got to have earned your name a place on some registry or other.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Yes, I remember you telling me that story before. And thank you for saying “an apology; no excuses–they RUIN apologies.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s my pet peeve when someone thinks they’re apologizing, but really, they’re just deflecting the blame onto someone or something else.

      And I learned my lesson on the grandparent thing. Never again have I made such a mistake. Of course, there’s always something new around the corner…

      Like

      • Smaktakula

        A bad apology is worse than no apology at all. Recently I had an experience like that. I expressed a grievance to someone via text. I’ve done a good deal of reading about conflict resolution and effective communication, and I always wait a good amount of time after composing communication of this nature before I send it. Moreover, I check it several times to make sure it’s expressed in “I feel” language rather than “you do” accusations. The goal is to make the communication as non-threatening as possible so that I can convey the full power of my disappointment and/or hurt.
        So I was gratified when, about an hour later, I received a text with a nice, short apology (I don’t require self-flagellation or grovelling, basically just recognition that I’m pissed. As far as I was concerned, there was no longer any problem.

        Then, a few moments later, came the excuse-text. I just looked at my phone and thought, “Man, what the f*** is this?” The problem is still unresolved.

        Like

  6. Diane Henders

    Out of the mouths of babes… your experiences just bolster my tendency to avoid children whenever possible.

    On the “professional embarrassment” side, I once had 30 workbooks printed up in which I advised computer students to “shit-click”. It should have read “Shift-Click”…

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Okay–you nearly killed me with that one. Literally. I’m walking on my treadmill using my “treadmill shelf” to hold my laptop, and I laughed so hard, I almost tripped. Oh, the horror you must have felt, although, I’m sure it lightened the mood, and everybody got a good kick out of it.
      🙂

      Like

      • Diane Henders

        Oops, sorry. 🙂

        To be perfectly honest, I laughed my ass off when I discovered it. It took a good half-hour before it occurred to me that others may not share my puerile sense of humour. I think I may lack some basic socialization.

        Like

  7. Katie

    I am not ready to disclose my big gaffs. But…I usually wear my shirt tucked, this day was an exception. I had dressed up a little for a meeting and the blouse did not tuck in. A patient I had not seen in years walked past and declared how great I looked and congrats on the pregnancy. She was horrified and kept apologizing. I was laughing for the rest of the day. I thought it was hysterical but I never have worn that outfit again 🙂

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Ha ha! I know the feeling. I have a sweater that my kids call my ‘pregnancy’ sweater. It has a high empire waist and is more loose underneath this. It really would make a good maternity top. Which is maybe why I wear it. Just to make people question why a woman my age would be with child…

      Like

  8. doncarroll

    pretty funny carrie:) i’m not in the field but aren’t some of them tubes pretty small with tiny print on them. i think i’ve seen it like that. a good cover perhaps..haha.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Well, the packets certainly are the same grayish color, so that’s my defense and I’m sticking to it…

      By the way, I thought of you this morning when I saw a commercial where a guy in his car jams to a Rush song.
      🙂

      Like

  9. Polly Robinson

    I’m with Perfecting Motherhood who said she [nearly] made an ‘… almost embarrassing comment about the lady being pregnant, but no, she’s only round with fat …’ except that I did say it to a student in front of other students … OMG ~ talk about wishing the ground would open up and swallow you! Luckily she laughed it off ~ but she reminded me of it when she was pregnant some years later *cringe*

    Like

  10. Cakes and Shakes...

    LOL! The hilarity, KY… I’m a student these days again but for years I was Managing Editor and pretty good at my job – the one really big boob I made was proofreading an entire version of the journal so that it was squeaky clean, no errors etc… but forgot to proof the page numbers in the table of contents… it went to print like that… I heard ALOT about that from subscribers. You can imagine my shame..

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh boy–and that’s a visible gaffe, always there to remind you.
      😉

      I was thinking you were about 23 years old or something. I didn’t realize you had a whole other life before your student days (and a managing editor–wow!) Guess that’s why you’re so wise!

      Like

  11. Subtlekate

    Oh Carries, yes, so many many times. I felt right at home reading all your wonderful moments . I’ve had many sleep deprived moments and too many lucid ones as well. Thanks for the giggle.

    Like

  12. Brother Jon

    I can’t believe I’m about to tell you this, but here goes. A good number of years ago our company put together a softball team. All of the players were dudes from work. We held a couple of practices before the tournament was to start, but not much “practicing” really happened. Most of the time was spent telling stories, mostly stories about their wives or girlfriends. I got to sit back and just listen to everyone. One guy was talking about him and his wife making “whoopee” and in the heat of the moment she said that they should do a ’68’. This isn’t the funny part. At work our offices were right next to each other. He was alone in his and I had a workmate with me in mine. One day, after all of this softball business, I had left to go to the restroom or something. I came back and noticed that him and my workmate were both carrying on laughing having a good time. I sat down and hollered to the guy and said “what’s the deal? your wife ask you for another 67 1/2 or something?” The both exploded with laughter that had me confused for a minute, until…she came walking out of his office. I never wanted to run away from someplace so much in my life. Good thing was she had no idea what I was talking about and her husband told her it was just an inside joke.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Ha ha! Oh, yeah, that’s walking right into it! Imagine how mortified she would have been if she’d known what you were really talking about. Her hubby would have been in the doghouse for days.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      🙂

      Like

  13. Kevin C

    Carrie, my entire day was this way today…and it’s your fault! I started out with my alarm clock not waking me up because I blended it into my dream and ended up hunting with whoever was in the dream all over for this music that was playing. Getting up late, I got Kyle ready and we were off to court. Today is a teacher day so Kyle was off. I had a few hearings, got done and needed to shop for a shirt for Kyle’s choir concert. First stop Target…nothing. No problem I tell him..we can go to Target on the way home after the post office. So off we go. But, I forget the post office. I really needed to mail a motion out to the DA too. Ok, we get his shirt and I say we can stop at the post office near the house. We go right past the post office by the house. No problem, I will feed you lunch and go back to the post office. My phone rings…it’s the Court. They want to know if I am coming to the trial that is set this afternoon (a half and hour ago) to advise my client on testifying in another kid’s case or to “take the 5th”. I spaced it. I was so set on the shopping and not going to the post office. So, I grab Kyle and load him into the car and race back to the courthouse. I get there and leave Kyle…yes, I left him in the car…I know that he’s 15, but handicapped and can’t get out if there is a problem, but I had to get to the courtroom. By the time I’d arrived, they had already reset the trial and everyone has to come back on Halloween. So, back to the car and headed home. After we past the exit which would take us to the post office, Kyle hollers out…”post office!” Too late. The one by the house has mail pick up at 3pm…how stupid is that? So we have to go to another one 3 exits down. I finally get to a post office and mail my return reciept letter to the DA and I go back to the car. I see I have a text. It’s from Kyle’s physical therapist. Where are you? the message says. Oh yeah, she was coming today because on her regular day tomorrow Kyle is getting a test dose for a baclofen pump. So, we switched it to today. It’s on the calander, but I spaced it. So off we race to get home…though by the time we arrive, 30 minutes late, the pt is gone. Kyle asked me if I was frustrated. I said no. (I think he knew I wasn’t telling the truth). His response was “it could be worse. At least the judge didn’t put you in jail. Judges can put you in jail if you don’t show up for your court!) So…thanks to his perspective I went into the house happy
    Oh…I said this was all your fault….you probably wonder why. Well I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t my usual self today and it dawned on me….because last night I had about a 1/2 hour before bed and I pulled your book up on my phone. I figured I’d read till 11 and go to bed. Yeah, right….I read til 11, then 12 and on. I have to get up at 5 am. No wonder I couldn’t function! I was up reading all night cause I couldn’t put the darn book down! That’s why today’s disaster was your fault!
    (but…keeping perspective…..I’m not in jail!)

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, Kevin, I’m so sorry to hear about that day. How horrible for you (and Kyle, too!). But I’m delighted to hear you couldn’t put my book down (does that make me evil?) But how nice of you, after all that, to stop here and tell me about it. And yes, if you had ended up in jail, that would be a huge bummer, and I would feel enormous guilt (though still secret relief that you enjoyed my book…). You can take it out on me in November. Oh, and I might need to hit you up for some lawyer advice for my new novel.

      Thanks, Kevin! You really made my night.
      🙂

      Like

  14. The Waiting

    OK, so I completely missed that you work in the medical field! I am truly dense sometimes! As far as saying/doing bonehead things at work…have you got a few hours? I’m amazed I have never been fired from any job yet.

    Also, WordPress unsubscribed me from you. Boo. I think I’ve fixed it though..

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      That WordPress–they like to play tricks. Or maybe they smelled me after one of the post-call days of my youth and were trying to protect you…

      Like

  15. raeme67

    Well, I have escaped my evil professor(temporarily) and took the time to relax and read your blog and am very grateful I did!
    Funny stuff! I have done so many stupid things you would not have the room to post them all!! 🙂

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Well, as long as you post some of them on your blog, it’s all good.
      😉

      Hope that evil professor isn’t taxing you too much. At least semesters are finite (though they seem to last forever when you’re in them). Thanks for taking the time to drop by. I know you’re very busy, so I appreciate it!

      Like

  16. Perfecting Motherhood

    Wow, I’m not sure which one’s the worst (or best) story, depending on how you look at it. I’ve had moments like that too, including the almost embarrassing comment about the lady being pregnant, but no, she’s only round with fat. My kids get to embarrass me so I don’t have to worry so much about what I say. I’m kind of glad my 4-year old stopped pointing at people and yell, he’s fat, and she’s fat too. Now he saves it for his dad only…

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      That’s true–having kids adds a whole new element to the foot in the mouth thing. Not only do we have to worry about our own gaffes, we have to worry about the gaffes of our children!

      And, oh, the pregnancy comment made to a woman who’s not pregnant. Haven’t we all done that at some point? So, so embarrassing.

      Like

  17. Elliot

    You should have told that first child “we’ll we know your nose is working fine”.

    That Grandpa one is awesome. You should have slapped him on the back afterwards and said ” Good on ya”.

    One time when I was about 18 I temped at a well known electronics firm for a few weeks, kind of fielding calls from Japan to the various sales account guys and gals who worked round the office. I didn’t know what they were talking about most of the time. Anyhoo, one account person was called Lesley and said person was not in the office much and we had not been introduced. I would often reply to calls “she is not available right now” and so on. Then about a week into it, this guy came storming over and said “I am Lesley, and I am a man”. Well I could see that then. Guy turned out to be a prick anyway so I out to have ignored him and continued to refer to him as she. Incidentally, none of his callers ever corrected me.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Ha ha–well, with a name like Lesley, all bets are off.

      And yes, the “nose working fine” thing would have been a great comeback. Too bad I was too tired and too mortified to think that quickly on my feet. I think I probably mumbled something about being on call. But the mother was quick to hush the child. I think she was as embarrassed as me.
      🙂

      Like

  18. Maddie Cochere

    Funny stuff, Carrie. At least the KY wasn’t scented or of the warming variety. 😉 I’ve had far too many uncomfortable moments. I have the kind where the minute you realize you’ve said or done something stupid, your entire body breaks out into a cold sweat. I once complained about a slow-paying customer on a “private” list of like-minded sellers – not knowing that person was on the list! I wanted to die. It wasn’t a personal attack, but I felt horrible nonetheless.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, I think we’ve all been there. Really horrible feeling, isn’t it? Like you just want to crawl in a hole and die. Funny how those memories stay with us for so long, but we can so easily forget the more pleasant moments.
      🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      Like

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