Patients Say The Darndest Things

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.

Not what our unit looked like.

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.

Photo: AFP

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.


  1. Read Robyn says:

    Hahahaha. I’m about to start my Internal Medicine rotation and looking forward to some good stories. 🙂

    1. Good luck with the rotation 🙂

  2. Nicola Nigri says:

    I love your stories! Bye and stay strong!

    1. Thank you for the encouragement 🙂

  3. madisonlang says:

    Hahah as a nurse ifind this priceless

    1. Heh, I’m glad you liked it!

  4. Hug … and thank you for caring

    1. Thank you for your support! It makes caring worth it.

  5. Another great story!

  6. harveylisam says:

    30 patients in the hallway? That’s awful. 😦 We often have patients in the hallway in our emergency room as well; it seems pretty inhumane to me.

    1. I just think that when you go to hospital with an emergency you’d like to feel safe and that being in a hallway where people are constantly rushing past you is probably not the best way to achieve that. I can understand when the genuinely green triaged patients have to be in the hallway, but on Friday we had some orange triaged patients in the hallway and that was pretty messed up.

  7. crankygiraffe says:

    Patients in the hallway seems to be a mainstay of ER rooms around the world…

    1. I guess there are more emergencies than we can realistically cater for? I feel like a lot of it also comes down to logistical issues too, though.

  8. pippajhh says:

    Oh man that sounds hectic! I would have been very nervous doing that on my own.

    1. Haha, I was a little nervous, but luckily it wasn’t the first time I worked in those conditions. You get used to it!

  9. Heh, it was funny enough in English! 😀

    But wow, you actually get such crazy hands-on training even while you’re studying in uni? (Sorry, I’m a total noob when it comes to university!) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hospital crowded with patients in my life… though I don’t go to that many hospitals, of course. Still, glad you managed to pull through and handle all other patients without accidentally busting someone’s vein from laughter. 😛

    1. Aw, thank you!
      Yeah, we get quite a lot of hands-on training here. It’s one of the good things of our training, but it has its cons – it’s not necessarily good to have this much practical responsibility before being qualified. But, it’s the way it is, and so far it has been working okay for me. 🙂
      Are you still at school? What are you hoping to study/do afterwards?

  10. It’s nice to know that someone working in a clearly understaffed and underfunded hospital makes sure the blood culture samples are not contaminated. I work in a similar hospital in India where interns just don’t do that. I wish they realised it’s the little things that save lives.

    1. Really? That’s hectic. It’s not so hard to keep the blood cultures clean, so I figure you do what you can in your set-up. Thank you!

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