It was a rough night on Internal Medicine call yesterday. Medical Emergencies was overflowing. At one point, we had thirty patients in the passage, because the beds were full. We had more patients requiring ventilation than we had ventilators. It was chaos.
At one stage I had to do blood cultures on a patient. He was still in a stretcher in the corridor. For those not familiar with it, a blood cultures is a special test looking for bacteria (or other organisms, sometimes) in the blood, and the blood has to be drawn completely sterile, so that you don’t end up culturing the patient’s own skin commensals.
There was virtually no working surface. So I asked the patient on the stretcher next to him to pour the cleaning solution in the kidney dish for me. I don’t think that’s 100% okay but I had nobody to help me and I needed a good yield on the culture.
This also, by the way, while dodging gloves that were being thrown at me by a delirious patient nearby. He had not been sedated because the person (me) who needed to get the IV running on him in order to administer lorazepam had not reached him yet.
Anyway, the following occurred (I’m posting the dialogue in Afrikaans and English, because the original Afrikaans is way funnier, if you understand it):
EK: Okay, Meneer, dit gaan ‘n klein prikkie wees. As jy stil is hoef ek net een keer te prik. So byt net op die tande vir my.
HY: …Ek hettie tanne nie.
ME: Alright, Sir, it will just be a small sting. If you sit still I’ll only have to try once. So just clench your teeth for me.
HIM: …I don’t have teeth.
He caught me so off guard that I almost blew his vein. I couldn’t stop laughing. Were it not for the filthy floor, I probably would have sat down right there to revel in my laughter.
If you are familiar with the edentulous population of Cape Town, you might find this even funnier.
Anyway, I think I told him to clench his gums, then.
And then I went on the next patient.