Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grady Seinfeld Moment on a Tuesday: Rusty Butterknives

**written with patient's permission, but details, names, etc. changed. . . . you know what it is.

TODAY at Grady:
Nurse comes up to me and says, "My new patient down there is off the chain! He doesn't trust anybody!"

"What room is that?" She gestured over her shoulder to the room behind her. "Wait," I laughed, "That's my patient. I was just going to see him."

"Whew, well good luck, Dr. Manning. He's kicked about three folks out already, including the consultants. He is completely off the chain. Not mentally ill. . .just. . .off the chain." She shook her head and continued to finish charting.

I knew something good was about to go down.

I enter the patient's room all cheery. His TV is off, he is looking out of the window. Appears totally harmless and 100% on the chain.

"Hey there, Mr. Jackson! I'm Dr. Manning. I just wanted to stop by and--"

"You a intern! Get away from me! I don't want to hear NUTHIN' you got to say!"

Voice is like Wolfman Jack. Almost cartoon like. Wonderfully grouchy without warning. One of my favorite kinds of patients--cantankerous for no reason.

"No, sir. I'm not an intern. I'm actually--"

"You actually ain't been a doctor no more than three years tops. Jest open your mouth and say you been a doctor longer than three damn years so I can tell you you a damn lie!"

Retract that first statement. Definitely is off the chain.

"Uuuhhhhhh. . .well actually--"

"You a lie if you say you been a doctor longer than five minutes."

Feeling myself getting amused. "Dang. Why do I have to be 'a lie?' Seriously, Mr. Jackson, I'm actually the attending doctor and---"

"What do that mean? You the what? How I'm 'posed to know what the hell that is?"

"The attending is, umm, the senior doctor on the team."

Gives me the hairiest eyeball ever. "YOU? You the senior doctor? Jesus Lawd-ta-day I'm in trouble! How long you been a doctor?"

"For fourteen years, sir."

"You a lie! You ain't been no doctor no fourteen years! Hell naw!"

"I'm serious, sir." Failing miserably at hiding my smirk.

"I'm serious, too. You lyin'."

(Is it wrong that I was vain enough to take this as an age compliment? Please blame that on me being just two weeks shy of the big 4-0. . .I'll take what I can get.. . .but I digress . . . .)

"I'm not lying, sir. I'm not an intern or a --"

"That's some bull!"

::Sigh:: "Okay, seriously, sir--" cuts me off again.

"You know what, doc?"

Rub my neck and inhale deeply to will myself some patience. "What's that?"

"I bet you be down in that operatin' room cuttin' on somebody with a rusty butterknife!" (now mumbling under his breath) "A doctor for fourteen years, my ass. . .what you think I look like? boo-boo the fool?"

(me under my breath) "Umm, actually I'm not a surgeon." Wait, why am I even entertaining this? This is going on way too long. I try to inconspicuously make a quick scan at the clock.


"Oh, you gots to go or somethin'? You out of time and need to go read a medical book so you can learn what the hell you doin'?"

"Wow. You're in rare form, Mr. Jackson." (It's official now--yes, he is very much off the chain. )

"You damn right I'm in rare form. This how you take care of yo' self. I always ask who folks is. I always ask what's up, shoooooot."

"That's actually a good thing, sir. As a matter of fact--"

Interrupts me again, but for some reason, now speaking in this really calm, voice. "Do you know what Jesus said, doc?"

Loaded question. I mean, like Jesus said a whole bunch of stuff, now didn't he? Usually when my Grady patients bring up Jesus they haven't just called me a lie repeatedly, so this was a first. I thought about all of the red writing in the New Testament and hoped he didn't plan to recite it all to me. I'd already been called a lie twice and an assassin, so decided to erase my amused smirk and oblige him with the simplest answer I could muster. Here we go. . . .

"What did He say, sir?"

"He said, 'You ain't got nothin' 'cause you don't ask for nothin'!' Tha's what He said!"

(Sorry, y'all, I couldn't resist.) "Uuhhhh, okay. . . ummm, like, which bible translation is that from?"

What did I say that for?

(back to off the chain yelling again, throws covers off his lap) "Oh SEE, you thank you FUNNY! You thank you GOT JOKES, huh?! Look here, doctor," --wait, he made air quotes, when he said doctor!--"I asked the Lord to help me know what's goin' on in here and you got jokes. See some folks don't even be trying to know what's goin' on. All these interns and they rusty butterknives coming at 'em--but me? I knows 'cause I ask."

"Sir, seriously, our doctors are amazing and very much qualified. The student doctors are, too. This is one of the best medical schools in the country, and we are proud to be here for you. And I assure you, there are no rusty butter knives around here."

He ignored all of that.

"You know what else Jesus said?"

"Ummm, I'm not sure, but I do know what He did."

"What's that?"

"He wept." A chuckle snorted out as I thought of the shortest verse in the whole bible. (Jesus wept. ~John 11:35)

"Oh see, now you really thank you funny! Trying to get cute."

(can't help it, now can't conceal my amusement at all.) "No for real, Mr. Jackson, I think He wept when He heard that you wanted to leave without completing your work up. And when He heard you insulting me earlier."

"Naw. . .He wept when He saw you coming at Him with a rusty butter knife and a brand new stepascope."

Both of us look at each other for a beat, and then burst out laughing so hard that the patient in the next bed laughed out loud, too. It was really a moment. We both cracked up until tears rolled down our cheeks.

Finally, I took his hand and this time, he let me. I felt his pulse and examined him. I even used my stepascope.

"You gonna let me work on getting you better, Mr. Jackson?"

"Yeah. I guess, so. But you better have me better in three, four days. Then I'm leavin'."

"Dang, Mr. J! What if I need more time than that?"

"Then you need to get fired, 'cause if you been a doctor fourteen damn years and it take you that long to get somebody better, you need to find another line of work." His eyes twinkled mischievously.

I offered him my biggest smile and looked back up at the clock. "I'd better get to work then."


I love--do you hear me?-- LOVE working at Grady. :)


  1. Get you an old worn-looking stepascope LOL

  2. Laughing so hard at this post! I love your quick wit, but not at the patients expense and your ability to read the situation for just the right approach to charm him out of cantanerous-ville.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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