"I remember hanging out with you at the Rotunda and watching you play poker with your fellow medical students while you waited for a call. I think that's where I learned how to play Acey-Deucy. They were interesting times!"
A comment made by my younger brother on reading part 1 of the Rotunda papers.
Yes, that was how we we filled in our time while we were waiting for those adrenaline stimulating calls that could occur at any time around the clock! When we weren't in-house waiting for calls we were often across the road from the Rotunda in Mooney's Pub, having a beer, if we could afford one and a coffee (6d) if we couldn't. They actually had a phone line in Mooney's dedicated to the on-call staff of the Rotunda, But much of the waiting time, we spent playing poker in our cell- like rooms. There was a group of American students and a Canadian who were studying medicine in Basle, Switzerland who frequently spent their time playing poker including the above variant that I hadn't heard of before. I joined in when I could afford to.
And indeed they were interesting times. During the morning clinics that the pregnant patients ( Nobody thought of calling patients 'clients' in those days ! ) attended for monthly follow-up until the last few weeks when the visits were weekly, we students were each assigned a patient to do an initial history and physical examination.. Most of the women regarded us kindly and frequently pointed out things we had omitted from our history taking. Our consultant would come around, instruct us in examination techniques, during which the student was usually a good deal more embarrassed than the patient. A series of questions would frequently be fired at us to determine whether our history and physical examination skills were up to snuff.
Had you determined the position the baby was lying in? Had you heard the fetal heart? Are you sure that's the baby's head down there and not its rump? And so on.
There was no ultra sound in those days and some of the consultants were still using an old-fashioned fundoscope, which was like an inverted funnel, instead of a stethoscope, claiming they could hear more acutely with it. Indeed, some of the really old consultants laid a silk handkerchief which they carried in their jacket pocket (they didn't have to wear white coats) on the patient's abdomen and listened by placing their ear on the abdomen. They also claimed that they could hear more acutely using this technique. Today, they would probably be charged with assault!
At any time during the twenty-four hours when the excessively loud alarm, which had an extension in each of our tiny rooms went off we were expected to drop everything and head for the delivery suite. The bell meant that a complicated delivery was taking place in the delivery theatre. The specialist and his immediate team were gathered around the patient ready to perform their miracles, while we medical students and student nurses would sit in something like the 'bleachers' at a ball game and watch the action and try to learn something. The 'Master of the Rotunda' was the archaic title by which the head doctor of the entire institution was known and was akin to Merlin, the magician of Arthurian legend in his magical skills - mainly in pulling babies out of the womb in impossible obstetrical situations that no mere mortal could cope with. Caesarian section was a risky procedure only availed of as a last resort!