Sunday, February 5, 2012


            Every time I accidentally tune in to "House" on TV, I am floored by the fact that Dr. House and his team are allowed to practice medicine. Even fictionally on TV. And that any hospital could be represented as wanting them to do so. Even fictionally on TV.
            Suppose you are a patient. 
You make the trip to Emergency because your arm has swollen up. It is because some insect or other bit you, and you are having an allergic reaction. But you don't know that, and there is no obvious bite mark, so you can't just tell the doctor.
You are assigned to a doctor on House's team.
"Hmm," says your doc. "Your arm seems to be swollen. Any other symptoms?"
"Nope," you reply, grabbing for the nearest container so you can vomit.
"Code Something!" shrieks your doctor, pulling hospital personnel to assist from behind curtains and grabbing the nearest defibrillator. "Clear!" 
And so he zaps you with the defibrillator, just in case you need it.
Naturally, your body jerks a couple of times.
"Patient is seizing! Fifty cc's of Designer Drug!"
Since you didn't need the whatever-he-just-shot-you-up-with, and it has side effects (remember your drug lessons from the TV ads, boys and girls: "Side effects may include –but are not limited to – headache, nausea, blotchy skin, bloody nose, tremors, toe fungus and death."), your skin turns blotchy and your nose begins to bleed. And you develop tremors.
Dr. House and a few other members of the team wander into your treatment room.  House says something insulting to your doctor, then turns and just for kicks insults you, too, a few times before leaving. Your doctor follows him like a puppy recently whacked with a newspaper. The group stops to confer in front of the glass window of your emergency treatment room.  House is nasty to everyone in turn, then tosses off a few gratuitous insults to hospital personnel fortunate enough not to be in listening range before demanding diagnoses from the team.
"Well," says one of them, " it could be a snake bite."
"Yes!" cries a second team member. "A fer de lance escaped from the zoo yesterday!"
"What's wrong with that diagnosis?" demands House.
"No puncture wounds, sir," replies your doctor. "At least none that we found."
"I know!" cries another team member, "It's appendicitis!  In obscure cases, a side effect is a swollen arm! Plus she has blotchy skin and a nose bleed!"
"Good work, Number Seven," says House, limping off.  "Prep the patient for surgery!"
And so forth. 
You have at least one more "seizure" (actually just tremors caused by the drugs they tried out on you in the spirit of elimination) and they invade your home to take samples off the paint under the sink before they figure out that you were bitten by some insect or other when the swelling goes down by itself.  Of course, by then, you have 12 complications from unnecessary medication, and no appendix.  Your insurance company is certain to have something to say about this.
In the early seventies when my children were young and we were living in the wilds of Northern California, the local hospital had a doctor with Housian tendencies, although he had a much sweeter disposition.  I think actually the poor man was just bored with the humdrum routine of health care in a small town.
Anyway, one time I took my three-year old daughter in for a wound on her hand that did not seem to be healing.  "Hmm," said this doctor, alarming me to edge of heart palpitations, "you live on what used to be the old (Johnson) ranch, don't you?  They used to run sheep there.  I think she cut herself on some barbed wire, which held a residue of anthrax, which sheep carry.  This, therefore, is probably an anthrax infection.  We should treat it with a strong course of antibiotics and blah, blah, blah."
Needless to say, I sought a second opinion.
Turns out it was an infected mosquito bite that she kept scratching.