Sunday, December 26, 2010

Not so bubbly.

Grady elder moment:

Today after my rounds, I was asked to stop by a patient's room. She had some skin findings that a colleague had requested I look at for a second opinion.

"Hellooo?" I spoke loud enough to alert her of my presence.When I came around the pink curtain, this Grady elder was in the middle of being given a sponge bath by one of our nurse assistants. She was fussing through the whole process.

"Dammit! It's cold! What is you doing with that cold ass water?" and "Be gentle, you hear? You so heavy-handed!" and "If I get pneumonia from being cold, I'm gone come for you."

I admit--I was a bit amused at her tirade. But the nursing assistant who was so diligently and delicately bathing her was calm and professional. I decided to take her attitude.

"This water is pretty warm but I can warm it some more if you'd like," offered the caregiver. She was doing a great job at deflecting her cantankerous commentary.

"Nawww, jes come on and finish, hear? You so heavy handed. Lawd have mercy!" The patient muttered a few more inaudible things that were surely related to her discontent with this task.

I debated whether I would ask to take a peek at her now while she was already mad and already exposed, or just wait until tomorrow. This was my last stop before heading out, so I'd hoped to examine her before my departure.

"Stop mashing my foot when you turn me, hear?"

"Yes, ma'am," answered the nursing aide with a patient smile.


Already feisty. Already spitting fire.

Why not?

I decided to go for it.

"Hey there, ma'am, my name is Dr. Manning. I was asked to come by and see about your rash by your doctor. If you don't mind, I just want to take a quick peek at your--"

"Do it look like a good time to you, Miss Manning? I mean, tell me. Do it?"

"Uhhhh, well, the thing is. . .I was hoping to take a look while you already had your skin uncovered. I won't disrupt things. Would that be alright?"

She could not have given me a hairier eyeball. Then she said:

"Well, you tell me if this is alright: How 'bout I walk in a room while yo' entire ass from the top all the way down to the bottom is hanging out the back of a sheet covered with cold bubbles and then ask you is it a good time for a stranger to take a 'quick peek' at you. Tell me how you thank you would like me to do that?"


"Yeah. I didn't thank so. Don't try to make it seem like you conveniencing me. It ain't nothin' convenient about having somebody looking across yo' whole ass from the top all the way to the bottom no matter how quick they say they gon' do it."


"Alright then, Miss. . .what's yo' name again?"


"Alright then Miss Manning. You get on back to whatever you was doing before you came in here bothering me and trying to take a 'quick peek' cross my behind." She looked up at me from her compromising position for emphasis.


"Uuuuhh. . .yes, ma'am. . . .uuhhhh. . . Merry Christmas, ma'am." I was at a loss for words.

'Merry Christmas?'

She looked up and gave me an even steelier, hairier eyeball than that first one. Which was the exact moment that I realized that even being wished a Merry Christmas is no consolation for bad manners-- especially when your entire backside is hanging out and covered with cold bubbles.

Um. . . yeah.


  1. I only started reading your blog a few weeks ago.

    I'm a premed student who was down at Grady today (as a shadow) and I'm pretty sure I've seen you at least twice including today. I have to admit your stories about Grady are quite inspiring although I am sorry this wasn't the best patient encounter. Tomorrow will hopefully be a better day!

  2. I think you almost always seem to remember to treat your patients with dignity. I guess you have to slip up sometimes. You know, of course, that she was right. It must be hard, though, when you're pressed for time and YOU know your intentions are good and your heart is in the right place. thank you for your writing. It is truly beautiful

  3. Yeah. . . . rude is rude, man. It's good to get called out really good every now and then. Keeps you honest! She was so, so right.

    Glad it seems like I treat my patients with dignity--Lord knows I try. But as you can see, even those who mean well fall victim to their little bubble of now-now-now.

    The good news--she was super sweet when I came back today. I apologized for the day before, too. :)


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

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