THE ANTIBODY: A super short story series. Teeny-tiny anti-anxiety laughs for tough times.
2 minute read:
“Dr. Stewart! Your patient is starting to wake up,” Kathy called out to James. She was one of the nurses in the PACU (post-anesthesia care unit), where patients go to recover from anesthesia after a surgery.
“Perfect timing; I was just coming to check in on him,” he replied.
James had been a part of the surgical team that operated on Mr. Kendall earlier that morning, a 45-year-old patient who presented to the emergency room the day before for bloating and severe pain in his right upper abdomen. After getting an abdominal ultrasound, they determined that he had inflammation of his gallbladder due to gallstones, and would need to have his gallbladder laparoscopically removed.
Despite his apparent discomfort, Mr. Kendall was friendly and made frequent jokes with the nursing staff and surgical team as they prepared him for surgery. As an intern, James rarely had time to get to know his patients, but he liked Mr. Kendall right away. He was bald with a thick beard and goatee, deep cocoa skin, and a round belly that he said had become increasingly distended over the last month.
James walked over to the patient’s bed just as his eyes flitted open. “Mr. Kendall? How are you doing? You’re in the recovery unit; you just had a surgery.” He spoke softly, so as not to shock the patient awake in the unfamiliar surroundings. He glanced at the patient’s monitor. “Your vitals look great! Is it ok if I do a quick exam?”
With Kathy’s help, James rolled the patient onto his side very gently to listen to his lungs. Immediately, he noticed that the patient had multiple long linear scratches and a few early scabs on his back, with a deep reddish hue to the surrounding skin.
“OH MY GAWWWWWD”, Kathy exclaimed upon seeing the patient’s skin. Mr. Kendall winced hearing her loud voice, which she immediately lowered so she wouldn’t disturb the other patients. “Oh my gosh… Look at those scratch marks on his back! We have got to be more careful while moving patients around in the operating room next time!”
James proceeded to place the stethoscope on the patient’s back as Kathy held him in place.
“Naw,” Mr. Kendall grimaced, and James quickly pulled the stethoscope off his back. The sound of the patient’s voice was like a bull horn in James’ ears (Yepp, when patients talk while the stethoscope is simultaneously on their chest or back, the sound is amplified!). “Naw, naw. Those scratches…” he winced, “Those were just the result of some extremely gooooooooood rough sex last night!” He chuckled lightly.
James and Kathy looked silently at each other in surprise for a moment and then burst into gut wrenching laughter. Mr. Kendall’s belly moved up and down as he laughed along.
Soon after, patient transporters came to Mr. Kendall’s bedside to wheel him off the unit. He winked at James as they pushed him away.
These patient’s, man! James laughed to himself. All in a day’s work. And the thought kept a chuckle on his breath as he went on with the rest of his day.
Written by Dr. Oye based on a chat with James Stewart II, MD, a General Surgery resident. Follow him on Instagram at @jwstewart_md for his funny and inspiring IG stories!
Disclaimer: All names, dates, diseases, or any other identifying details of patients and healthcare providers in my stories have been changed to protect their privacy.