Wednesday, November 30, 2005


It's hard to believe, but the biggest wimps in the hospital are the young, healthy guys. And by young, healthy guys, I'm not referring to the scrawny, nerdy guys one would typically think would be whining and writhing in pain, causing a ruckus and being just a general pest. The profile of the average wimpy guy is a young guy in their 20's or 30's, muscular, healthy, and looks like he can kick your ass in a barfight. Oftentimes, they've got a scary looking tattoo.

So say you have Young Guy (YG) and Little Old Man (LOM). Both present to the ER with identical abscesses on their thigh that you have to open and drain. Here's the typical interchange I have with them:

Me: I'm going numb up your leg, make an incision, drain the pus, and pack your wound.

YG: Aaagh! I bet that's going to hurt! Aren't you going to put me to sleep?! Aaaagh! I'm going to need lots of pain medicine!

LOM: OK, Doctor, do what you need to do .

As I numb them up with the local anesthetic:

YG: Aaagh! What's in that needle! That needle's huge! Aaagh! That burns! That hurts! I need more medicine! Aaaagh!

LOM: [Grits his teeth and just takes some deep breaths]

As I'm making an incision on the anesthetized skin:

YG: Aaagh! I can't believe you're cutting my leg! Aaaagh! Why is it bleeding?! Is that normal?! Aaaagh! Aaaagh!

LOM: [Grits his teeth and just takes some more deep breaths]

As I'm draining the pus from their leg:

YG: Aaagh! It hurts! It hurts! It hurts! Aren't you done yet?! Aaaagh! I want to be put to sleep! Aaaagh! Aaaagh! Aaaaagh!
[Usually at this point a nurse oftentimes pokes her head in the room, realizes that it's a wimp, and goes about her business]

LOM: Are you almost done, Doctor?

As I finish dressing the wound and write a note in the chart:

YG: [Moans, groans, and sobs quietly]

LOM: Thank you Doctor for taking care of my leg.

I don't know what it is about these young guys. I guess they just haven't experienced real pain before. And conversely, I'm often surprised how these little old men and women handle pain. I guess compared to what they might have had to endure in their lifetime, getting a shot of local anesthetic, or having someone squeeze their abscess is easily tolerable.

They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But in my case, the whiny patient often just gets me rolling my eyes at them.