The Storytellers

14 Oct

Last week, I had dinner with a group of acute care physicians.

We are all storytellers. I tell the funny stories, the moving stories, the profound stories, and the ordinary stories. Sometimes, I tell stories that have been told to me by other people. I’m a blogger because there are stories I want to tell. I think we all do it, we all have a wee stash of good stories that we like telling and that we know get a good reaction from our audience. Of course, there are some that always get a good reaction no matter how they’re told or who they’re told to — I have a friend who likes to tell people about when he met the Queen and started talking about tampons — but, more often, stories are better when they’re told to people who have had common experiences. This is why you put seventeen Anglicans in a room and aren’t surprised when they start telling stories about funny things that have happened at funerals.

It’s no different with medics. If we end up around a table together, we will pull out all our best bits. We share stories about ridiculous things that have been done in the name of infection control (getting intercepted on your way out of theatre by an HEI inspector who wants to know when you last did handwashing training), least likely investigation results (a troponin level of 3.28 on a man who hadn’t thought himself unwell enough to come to A&E), most surprising greetings from patients (“um, can I have a cup of tea, please, doctor?” shouted from the room of a woman who had been GCS 3 every time we’d checked for the last week), and craziest experiences with patient transport (calling in a helicopter from the Ministry of Defence during the volcanic ash cloud). The fact that these are our best bits may explain why we make awkward dinner party guests.

In the middle of dessert, the conversation turned to funny stories about life support training.

I was the only person at the table who wasn’t an ALS trainer, so that was fairly predictable.

The only good story I have about life support training comes from my most recent OSCE. It all started well enough. I got the sticky pads attached and the monitor switched on, and I had identified VT and debfibrillated properly. I’d done all the things that we’re supposed to learn how to do in third year life support skills. The last part of the assessment is to demonstrate that you’ve not forgotten how to do all the rest of it. I tried to dash around to the other side so that I could take over from my “assistant”. I tripped over the Ambubag cable and took a nosedive onto the mannekin and expressed myself using words that my grandmother doesn’t know that I know. So, when third year OSCEs were mentioned, off I went into this story.

And you can meet someone and spend the entire day with them and know that there’s something familiar about them, something that’s tugging at the corners of your memory, something that you just can’t quite place…

I came to the end of my story and there was laughter, and the consultant who was sitting next to me put down his fork and said, “Oh, gosh. I remember that! I was your examiner!”

Now playing: Barry Manilow – Somewhere Down the Road

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Posted by on October 14, 2010 in Blog, Medicine


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