by Steve Goldfinger
During four years of medical school, I saw classmates faint three times. They went down so suddenly and unexpectedly that I was certain they had tripped on something. But no, there had been nothing near them to trip on.
My most vivid memory of such a swoon dates back to our first year, indeed our first encounter with a patient. And to the everlasting embarassment of Shirley Dalling, the swoonee, the entire class was witness to her fall. Shirley, one of the 11 women in our class of 120, was on center stage that afternoon.
The setting was one of those large steeply banked amphitheaters with about 10 rows of eager students waiting to meet a real patient. Presiding over the encounter was the legendary Dr. Yale Kneeland, Jr., tall in his long white coat and exuding the great charm that typified his privileged nature. His first name said it all.
He greeted us with a few condescending words. Then, in his unmistakable baritone, he boomed, “Please wheel in our patient.”
Doors slid behind the floor of the amphitheater and an attendant pushed in a gurney. Lying flat on it was a man, perhaps in his fifties, with one noteworthy feature – a greatly protruding belly easily perceived through the sheet that draped it.
“This is Mr. O’Brien, colleagues,” said Dr. Kneeland before turning to Mr. O’Brien to add, “This is a rather large group of young doctors.”
He went on. “Now I would like to have a volunteer to come up and examine
Mr. O’Brien. How about you?” he demanded of Shirley who was sitting quietly in the first row, not daring to raise her hand.
He brought her to the side of the gurney and then introduced her to the patient in his usual mellifluous style.
“Now, my young friends, because of his liver problem Mr.O’Brien has accumulated a very large amount of fluid in his abdomen.” He removed the sheet. “By palpating his abdomen, you can actually feel the fluid, like jelly being pushed around inside.
Miss Dalling, would you be good enough to push on Mr. O’Brien’s belly?”
Shirley did so…and immediately dropped to the floor, a sack of jelly herself.
End of demonstration.
Kneeland knew exactly what to do. Totally poised and in a clear voice, he asked that the patient be wheeled out through the doors behind them.
I remember Mr. O’Brien’s words as he slipped through the doors.
“How’s the young doctor?”
Since joining BOLLI a few years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side. He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group and more!