Sunday, 18 January 2015

Doctor in Training. Pt 2.

      So, there I  stood at the bottom of bed number thirty-six.   Lying  on  the bed was a young  man, about my age writhing in spastic, athethoid movement, neck extended, contractures of the arms  and legs and a more shocking example of the  physical misfortunes than I had ever seen.  He seemed to totally lack any sort of control over  his body, until my shocked eyes fell on his left lower extremity.   Between  his big toe and his second toe he was holding a pen, and despite the spastic movements of the rest of his body, he was writing in a small , precise cursive hand  (foot!) on a stabilized notebook.
       After I got over the shock of seeing a human being who seemed to be dealing in some way with the unimaginable devastation, I managed to pull myself together and said apprehensively, " I'm Stanley Smith, a medical  student, and they sent me down to take a history and do a physical examination.  Is that alright?"
        The patient, later internationally known as the author of the book  and subject of the movie "My Left Foot," and "Down all the Days", was  kind to an apprehensive new medical student.
        His speech was dysarthric and difficult to understand, his manner kindly.  He was  obviously used to this teaching  hospital routine.  I won't attempt to replicate his speech - that would just make him - and me sound stupid!!
        "Yes, I know you students have to learn on someone," he replied in a dysarthric drawn out drawl.
        I was grateful I could understand him and he me.
        I took a history  of  sorts, more social than medical.  After he told me he nearly died during delivery and that he had suffered serious brain damage, we got on to his life, which was much more in line with  what I  could comprehend than the medical stuff.   That sort of human interest stuff gets knocked out of young doctors if they are not careful.  The line between left wing loony stuff and human kindness becomes indistinguishable to many.
        "So what do  you do most of  the time?" I asked him.
        " I write," he said.  "I've started doing a bit  of painting too," he said.
         He had a certain leprachaun- ish  look about him that precluded an  overly sympathetic attitude and made me feel that somehow he was managing to get some fun out of life, as indeed he was.  If you want to know how, read "Down all the Days".
          The only other famous 'medical case'  I met in my student days, was Douglas Bader, the legless RAF Air ace,  who was a double lower limb amputee and talked his way back into combat missions sans legs.  He came to the Meath Hospital to encourage and reassure pediatric amputees regarding their their future life, though I don't think he was recommending that they become fighter-pilots!

1 comment:

  1. I read Down All the Days - wonderful! And Douglas Bader was my childhood hero after i saw the movie "Reach for the Sky". So interesting that you met those two notable people!