Playing Doctor




Initial Visit?

Wednesday, April 19

Seen the Doctor

When the Marquee’s in the Men’s room, Dr. Pasteur walks into the bar and joins me and Merteuil. I call for an extra mug and pour him a beer as he tells us about a primary adrenal insufficiency he diagnosed today. He tells us about the patient’s symptoms and how he figured out it was adrenal insufficiency, but then he told me about the lab results.

‘That isn’t primary,’ I correct him, ‘it’s secondary.’

‘No,’ he explains to me how he and his attending had discussed the results and made the diagnosis.

‘Your attending’s wrong,’ I say. ‘It’s secondary.’

Pasteur asks Merteuil what she thinks.

‘I haven’t thought about it for a long time,’ she says. ‘I think it’s secondary, but I’m not sure.’

‘A Goddamn surgeon can recognize it’s secondary,’ I tell Pasteur.

The Marquee comes back and Pasteur tells him the lab results.

‘Primary,’ Pasteur asks, ‘or secondary?’

‘Secondary,’ the Marquee says definitively. I raise my eyebrows at Pasteur and hold my hands palms up, come-unto-me style.

Merteuil changes the subject, telling us her tech is going out tonight with his new girlfriend. She knows that two of his regular hook-up chicks are going to be out tonight too.

‘I’m going to be starting some shit tonight,’ she says, smiling. She explains she’s going to make sure his other girls find out he has a new girlfriend, effectively knocking them out of his picture. ‘Once I’ve junked his other options for regular poozle, he can’t fuck things up for me and my husband, cause it’ll fuck things up for him and his girlfriend.’

Pasteur grunts. We look at him.

‘You guys are right,’ he says. ‘It is secondary.’

There’s a moment of silence while we figure out he’s talking about our last conversation.

‘Erik,’ the Marquee says, setting me up to do the Broadcast News bit, ‘it must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you're the smartest person in the room’

‘I rather enjoy it’ I say, laughing. ‘How is it for you?’

‘Quite nice,’ he says, ‘thank you for asking.’

‘You guys are assholes,’ Pasteur says, pouring himself the remainder of the pitcher of beer.

‘He’s drinking our beer,’ the Marquee says, ‘and somehow we’re the assholes?’

‘Typical,’ I say, reaching into my pocket as my cell phone issues its voicemail tone. I look at the screen and see it’s from the Firefighter.

He went to see the doctor, who told him it wasn’t herpes. The relief and elation in his voice is as jubilant as the bass guitar in XTC’s Garden of Earthly Delights. He says his doctor told him it was bullous impetigo.

I think it out: clear vesicles on a crusty erythematous base. Fuck me. How fucking obvious. How could I have missed it?

And while I’ve never been so delighted to be wrong, I’m horrified at the night I’ve put the firefighter through. My stomach turns inside out. Misdiagnosing an STD kind of cuts into your chances of winning back someone’s heart.

I tell Merteuil and Pasteur what happened with the firefighter last night and give the Marquee the update.

‘Those Family Practitioners,’ the Marquee says when I tell him the diagnosis, ‘see so much of that shit.’

‘On the plus side,’ Pasteur says, delighted at my shame, ‘after he finishes the antibiotics, you can go back to sucking it.’

‘Ever the charmer,’ I say to him, laughing half-heartedly, closing my eyes to think.

‘You know your problem?’ Pasteur asks me.

I open my eyes and look at him.

‘You believe your own hype,’ he says to me. ‘I’ll give it to you, a good portion of the time you’re right. You pick up on things I miss. But you miss things, too. You’re wrong a significant portion of the time. So you save some lives,’ he leans in and quiets his voice. ‘Guess what, Erik? It’s your fucking job. There’d be something wrong if you didn’t have rescue stories to tell. You think I don’t have families that kiss my ass when they see me? We all do. But we don’t let it go to our head the way you do. We don’t pretend that we’re gods from on high, giving fire to mankind like we’re Proteus.’

‘You mean Prometheus,’ I say, finishing my beer and getting up from the table, ‘I’ve got to go meet Stockholm. Merteuil, good luck with your plan tonight.’

As I’m walking out the door, I hear Merteuil say, ‘I can’t believe none of us have worked in a good Stockholm Syndrome joke.’

4 Comments:

4/19/2006
Blogger the other sarah writes:

I can't believe none of us have either...

 


4/20/2006
Blogger Damon writes:

That's great that you used mad bling penmanship constructively.

I think it's funnier than the joke would have been, that they lament missing the oppurtunity.

 


4/20/2006
Anonymous medha writes:

I thought "Stockholm" was just a name you chose in order to protect her identity on your blog. But it seems you hide her real name from your collegues as well?? What gives?

 


4/25/2006
Blogger m-lo writes:

When you're not delivering fire, the eagle is devouring your liver. I sympathize.

 


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