Sometime I marvel how certain individuals ever got through medic class. Of course, such musings aren’t unique to our profession; doctors wonder how some of their colleagues graduated from medical school; lawyers wonder how members of their profession ever passed the bar and, of course, everyone wants to know out of which Cracker Jack box Uncle Joe got his driver’s license. But these two guys I worked with back in Ohio still make me shake my head in wonder.
One of them couldn’t see; the other couldn’t hear. Now it wasn’t that this medic, let’s call him Chris, couldn’t see anything, because he could see what he wanted to see. But he must have had some unusual opthomological anomaly that prevented him from seeing two white lines on a dark background, oh, say, like vocal cords with a laryngoscope. And the other medic, we’ll call him Sean, could hear most things, but for some reason he was unable to hear the sound of blood coursing through a partially obstructed artery with a stethoscope.
No matter what I tried with these guys, nothing seemed to help. Chris could see vocal cords perfectly well on Fred the Head. He could even see them when I would sneak him into the trauma room to take a post-mortem peek. And, he could see them when I would crouch behind him and reach around to pick up the epiglottis for him with the laryngoscope. Sean could hear a pulse loud and clear on my arm, his arm or the arm of anyone else at the station. However, Chris would miraculously lose his sight and Sean would mysteriously lose his hearing when an actual patient was involved.
I tried to encourage Chris as much as I could, because otherwise we would inevitably have to back him up on any call that might involve airway problems. And with Sean, even the most routine nursing home patient would have their systolic blood pressure recorded “over palp” on every run sheet.
At what point does someone stand up and say “Enough! Chris can’t see cords and Sean can’t hear pressures, and they need to pursue alternative job opportunities!” I can’t possibly have been the first person in their careers to have noticed these, shall we say, significant deficits. However, I was just a partner — not a supervisor, instructor or medical director. Luckily, I heard they finally figured it out themselves. Chris moved on to driving trains (hopefully he can see the signals) and Sean went back to bar tending. ‘Nuff said.