When the Doctor Becomes a Patient

Today I became a patient.  If you follow me on Twitter, then by now you know what happened.  Yes, I am embarrassed by what happened, but I’ll relinquish my HIPAA right to privacy for this moment.

This afternoon I swam nose-first into the sidewall in the pool.  [I haven’t been swimming in awhile and I forgot to bring goggles, so I wasn’t really looking.  Laugh all you want…]  It didn’t hurt all that much, and I wouldn’t have even noticed any issues for a little while if blood hadn’t come gushing out.  Jane, the lifeguard at the Y, was very helpful in getting me settled on the side of the pool while I held pressure.  After holding the icebag on it for 10 or 15 minutes, I was able to palpate the bridge of my nose, and then it hit me.  There was a dent in the side and a small bulge on the opposite side.  Yep, I had broken my nose.

With two little kids, I didn’t want my wife to have to bring them to the ER, so I drove home, grabbed some books, and headed to the ER at the hospital where I work.  I figured I’d be there all night.  I mean, a broken nose is nothing compared to the typical emergency room traffic.

I parked in my usual lot and walked toward the ER.  By a stroke of luck, I ran into an ENT colleague on my way in [he was heading home for the day].  When I told him I was heading to the ER for what I thought was *laugh* a broken nose, he took a quick look and agreed.  He gave me a quick rundown of what could be done, since I really didn’t know [we GI docs rarely deal with nasal fractures…].

I was triaged and put into a room within 15 minutes.  Within the next 15 minutes, a financial representative and 2 nurses had come in, none of whom really had any idea that I work at the hospital.  As the second nurse was getting all of my information, 3 ENT residents (a 4th year, a 3rd year, and an intern) walked in.  If I wanted my nose reset, they offered to do it right there with local anesthesia, or I could have waited a few days and had it done under sedation in the OR.  I was a bit nervous about having my nose reset without sedation, but I decided to go ahead and get it done while I was there.  This is basically what it sounded like I was going to get done to me… [Click here if you want to read about closed reduction.  This is a video of the very same procedure I had; you may want to turn the sound off for this].

As they told me, the local anesthesia was definitely the most uncomfortable part.  It was not a fun experience by any means, but it was only a few minutes.  By the time the anesthetic had fully numbed my bridge and septum we were ready.  Less than a minute later it was done.  All I felt was a pop, as if I had cracked my knuckle.  I expected much worse.

Within three hours I had left the ER.  Three hours?  It is quite possible that I set a record for fastest overall ER visit and successful management of a nasal fracture.  Maybe it was just a slow day in the ER, but it was more than just the rapidity of my treatment that impressed me.

They engaged me as a participant in the decision-making and treated me like a person, not a like a guinea pig, which we have probably all seen.  Whenever I was uncomfortable the 4th yr ENT resident stopped to ask me how I was.  He took the opportunity to teach the intern what should be done at key steps [If you have never been a patient when one doc is teaching a junior doc about your condition, it is quite interesting!]. Everything about his bedside manner was what I would expect from a seasoned doc.  The entire team of health care professionals impressed me.

With everything we hear about the lack of professionalism in the current state of medicine, it was quite a comforting experience to witness firsthand the professional comportment of the nurses and the residents.  Although I have no idea if this was the same way that every patient gets treated, I hope it is.

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About Ryan Madanick, MD

I am a gastroenterologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, as well as the Program Director for the GI & Hepatology Fellowship Program. I specialize in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD. I can be followed on Twitter: @RyanMadanickMD (he/him)
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2 Responses to When the Doctor Becomes a Patient

  1. Baillie says:

    Sorry to be so long visiting, but I’ve spent the last while in Purgatory. Excepting the visit to you, of course: that was cheerful, as is usual. *butter, butter, butter* 😀

    Purgatory is temporary. Hell has had to rehouse me because I-myself and I-my-Anti-self chanced to meet one another and, quite naturally, blew up the place; so they need time to redecorate. So do I, myself, for that matter.

    Your site looks very pleasing. Is that picture of your own taking? It looks like Kentucky as I saw it once. Unless it was someplace else…

    I haven’t read anything of your writing yet, but I hope to when my A-to-Z ailments allow me enough brain-cells to follow Higher Learning. (This is a sad admission for a mere high-school graduate who had to teach herself to follow literary arguments by reading Neil Postman, over and over and over and over, etc.) But I’ve actually written something of my own in an inspired moment this morning on a subject possibly of some interest to a stem-to-stern gastroenterologist.

    The instigation:

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/education/ct-met-school-lunch-restrictions-041120110410,0,4567867.story

    My response – which I hereby dedicate to you for your courage in continuing to listen to my babbling and to now reading it – is somewhere in their comments section:

    “Carry on, O, Carry! ~ ~ ~ Mater of our pudgy Nation!
    Let Thy holy Bosom drip Prohibitory pride
    Carry on Thy waving hammer (skeletal with indignation)
    Nourished Nation, empty-bellied – but SO healthy as they died!”

    Bah!

    That’s TWO literary accomplishments today: the poetry-snippet and writing this possibly legible post. I shall now go die of exhaustion.

  2. Baillie says:

    Now I HAVE read some of this post! Don’t DO things like that! If I was your wife, I wouldn’t know whether to pat your fevered brow or thump you for scaring me half to death.

    Poor nose.

    >: [

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