I was lecturing to a group of medical students on Tuesday –it was their first introduction to breast cancer and I was determined to make those two hours as exciting as possible. They had just started their second year, and after the first, spent entirely learning about the “science” of medicine, they were eager to hear something of the “art”. So when I woke up that day and my elbow was a little sore, I attributed it to a scrape I’d gotten a couple of days before.
By the time the lecture was over, and I went to the car to drive back to my main practice site, that elbow was really bothering me, so I rolled up my sleeve and had a look. “YIKES” and “OMG” do not adequately describe my reaction. What I saw did NOT make me happy. There was a large red welt where my elbow used to be, and redness extending down towards my forearm. So what did I do? I stopped by the house. Why? Because I keep a large supply of antibiotics on hand for my dogs–a veritable pharmacy, in fact. Metronidazole for diarrhea, Keflex for skin infections, Cipro for urinary tract infections, you name it. I even call in prescriptions for them, as Bartley K9 Fielding, or Dusty K9 Fielding. Or at least I did, until my pharmacy changed hands and the new pharmacist had moral objections to my practicing veterinary medicine without a license. But that’s another story.
So yes, I went home and took the dogs’ medicine. I needed to get back to work, in a hurry. I had patients waiting. I started with Cipro, good for most skin organisms, and off to work I went. By the time I got home that evening, it was worse, and I sought consultation with my husband, who is also not a veterinarian, but who used to practice medicine. He pronounced his verdict: “Add some Keflex starting tonight!” I was quite certain that I would be better by Wednesday morning. I wasn’t.
Upon my arrival in the emergency room on Wednesday afternoon with my fever of 102 and my forearm the size of Popeye The Sailorman’s, the nice ER doc sat down to take my history. He was very earnest. He diagnosed “cellulitis”, probably staph or strep. I told him I was a health care worker, a doctor in fact, so that he would understand what I meant when I said that because I did not want to disrupt my schedule or inconvenience my patients, I took the dogs’ medicine. He was incredulous. A crowd gathered to see and examine the doctor who took her dogs’ antibiotics, quite unsuccessfully but very determinedly nonetheless, because she didn’t want to take time out to actually go SEE a doctor!
Nearly three days later, I am home from the hospital. It is always sobering to actually BE a sick person, instead of just taking care of them. Trying to negotiate my way to the bathroom while sporting an IV pole instead of a Hermes bag as an accessory is a humbling experience. And Jack Nicholson’s got nothing on me as far as the unintentional “rear exposure” when it comes to those delightful hospital gowns. I hid deep under the covers and fervently hoped that none of my colleagues would feel like making a visit. They were smart. They did what I would have done under the same circumstances—they sent flowers!
The infectious disease consultants, the hospitalist, and the nurses (not to mention the medical students) all had a roaring good laugh retelling the story about the doctor who TOOK HER DOGS MEDICINES! But I remain unrepentant. For I know, that in my heart, if I had gone to my primary care doctor on Tuesday, her first response also would have been to give me Keflex or some other oral medication, and not to hook me up to an IV bag full of Vancomycin. She just wouldn’t have called it dog medicine!
Somehow, I don’t think that this is what was meant in Luke: 4:23 which reads: “Physician, heal thyself”. But I probably won’t try it again.