It was time for the rotation. Shelia had completed infectious disease, podiatry and surgery rotation. Today marked the beginning of Internal Medicine. All weekend long she had studied up on the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, and appendix. She did not like the idea of having to interview patients since that actually meant talking with people. She was much more comfortable with a pancreas in her hand that talking with the owner. Too much ‘how do you feel?’ and ‘does it hurt when I press here?” Unfortunately it was expected that she excel at all facets of her resident rotation in order to graduate.
The teaching hospital was relatively new, it had Wi-Fi stations and electronic charting in every exam room. When you needed to look at an x-ray, you called it up on the super HD monitor, where you could zoom in and add artificial color to the image, which made exposing tumors easier than ever before. In a few more years, the radiology specialty would be as much a relic as the appendix. A computer could spot a tumor, or anomaly as well as a good radiologist these days. A decade from now the computer would be better than any of them which meant radiology was a dead profession, just like leeching.
Shelia looked at the chart of the next exam room. It took all day Monday but she got the hang of the exam routine. Read the chart, make your diagnosis before you enter the room, chat with the patient and if he or she couldn’t talk you out of your preconceived notions, you were done. Write the script, wash your hands and move down the hall to the next exam room. Easy as pie.
Male, 32, dizzy spells. Blood work normal the chart said. Shelia thought dehydrated this hot muggy morning as she turned the knob and entered the room.
Sitting cross legged on the exam table was her patient. Eyes closed, head wavering back and forth from side to side, like one of those bottom heavy dolls that wobbled to and fro. “I’m not disturbing you am I? I’m Doctor Reagan. Can you tell me what happened?”
Male 32. No longer dizzy opened his eyes and looked at Shelia. “Hard to say Doc. One minute I was working at my desk, the next I was watching the universe spin about on it’s axis. I didn’t know the universe had an axis until today. I know galaxies do, spinning around their massive star cores, but not the Universe, the big U. I always thought it was flying off in all direction like the big bang was a humongous firecracker blowing the universe to bits in all sort of directions. Now I know better.”
Shelia was begin to wonder if Male, 32, was going to be the first patent to make her change her corridor diagnosis. She didn’t know what to say so she just scribbled in his chart. “Disoriented, incoherent thoughts.”
“Doc, let me ask you something. Have you ever started the day believing one thing and by the time you go to bed, or in my case, before lunch time, your notion of reality has been turned on its head? I need your pen and some paper. I have to write this all down before the ordinary expectations and reality smother what I know to be true.”
“And what might that truth be?”
That there isn’t one single universe, that there are as many as there are atoms in the universe. No, not atoms, subatomic particles, muons, and leptons and Higgs-Boson particles and infinitely more than that. And this morning I got a glimpse of them all. I must tell the others.”
While Male 32 was talking Shelia had pressed the recessed panic button on her pager, alerting security that there may be a dangerous person in the exam rooms. She made some flimsy excuse and eased back out through the door into the corridor.
Two rather large men approached her and asked what was going on. Shelia didn’t think Male 32 was going to give anyone trouble, but it was clear to her, even before her psychiatric rotation, that he needed to stay for observation. She scribbled more notes on his chart, nodded and the two rather large men entered the exam room first, with her following quickly behind. The room was empty. Male 32 was nowhere to be found.
It was just Wednesday, day 3 of her rotation and all her preconceived notions had just been knocked on their ass.