On the other end of the stethescope

A couple of weeks ago I spent 5 days as the most expensive retort stand in history. Five days in theatre, sitting between the legs of various anaesthetised women, holding onto the end of a couple of probes, and moving my hands up and down and from side to side, in order to manipulate said woman’s uterus and rectum. It’s horrifically boring. And it also requires you to maintain deeply uncomfortable positions for hours at a time, with your muscles screaming at you for mercy.

On day 6 I woke up with torticollis – or a cricked neck. ‘Arse,’ I thought, and headed into work, where one of my bosses offered me a voltarol suppository for the pain. It helped a bit, I popped a couple of paracetemol, and carried on. I’ve had a cricked neck before. It usually resolves by the next morning. I wasn’t worried.

I was therefore surprised to wake up on day 7 in even more pain. I took paracetemol and ibuprofen, went into work, took some more, carried on, and booked a spa visit and a deep tissue massage for my day off the next day.

On day 9, with neck still cricked, I woke up with no sensation in my index finger of my left hand. ‘Hmmm,’ I thought, and went into work as usual, on the usual diet of painkillers, and booked a session with an osteopath.

The osteopath informed me that I had the worst back she had ever witnessed. When I asked her if she said that to everyone, to get more business, she denied it. I didn’t believe her.

I’m now on day 13. I’ve been signed off work for a week and I can’t feel my index finger at all. I went to the physio yesterday, and she confirmed the osteopath’s previous assertion about my back. I’m now sort of more inclined to believe her. I can’t sleep. I can’t lift my arm without yelping. And I can’t feel my sodding finger. Which means I’m typing this with one shitting hand.

So now I’m the most expensive broken retort stand in history, and it’s not much fun being on the other side of the stethescope. I just want someone to click their fingers and fix me. Which is what I know all my patients are after.

But the problem with medicine is that it just isn’t that good. Unless it’s something you can cure with surgery – like early cancer, or an infection you can cure with antibiotics, medicine is mostly about symptom control or preventing worse things happening, and often the side effects of the medication outweigh the benefits. It’s frustrating for the patient. it’s frustrating for me as a doctor. It’s even more frustrating for me as the bloomin’ patient.

So if anyone out there has a magic wand, do get in touch. Because I’d quite like to be able to feel my finger. And put on a jumper without having to put an anti-inflammatory up my bum to do so.


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