May 15, 2011


"Do you enjoy playing with all of his meds?" my sister-in-law queried of me today when I was digging through his numerous bottles of meds.

It's a fair question.  I do possess, as I think any good doctor should, a curiousity about the human body which naturally leads to curiousity about the disease states.  It's a solid morbid truth that for us to learn, someone else must suffer, and furthermore, we must get some satisfaction out of the process.  I've heard many an instructor state that they receive more from their patients than they dole out.  I'm beginning to become familiar with that experience.

When we were kids, my brother had some skin infection on his upper back.  I remember he'd give me a quarter to rub the topical cream on his back.  Over two decades later during a lecture in microbiology, a condition dubbed tinea versicolor flashed up on the screen.  It's caused by a fungus with the wonderful name of Malassezia furfur.  Under a microscope, the fungus looks like 'spaghetti and meatballs' and that's a pretty diagnostic clue.  As soon as they showed a picture of what a patient afflicted with it presents as, my mind flashed immediately back to my childhood.  I'm guessing that's what my bro had all those years ago.  If I close my eyes, I can picture his back quite clearly.  It seems even then he was my first real patient.  I was rubbing the goo on his back primarily out of a curiousity to see what was growing on him.  Flash forward to today and I'm freely playing around with his opiate doses.  Who would've thought our relationship would move from simple topical creams to heavy hitting narcotics.

So to answer my sister-in-law's question, I took a very long pause.  'Enjoy' is close and seems a natural first descriptor to pop into my mind but upon further evaluation it didn't seem to be the right word.  That seems too twisted to derive pleasure from my brother's condition.  'Meaning' there's a word that starts to get to the meat of the issue.  Add the word 'gratifying' and I think that gets real close.  Yes, I think I can say that I take away a great sense of gratification when I can provide even the smallest measure of aid to him.

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