Every Friday the 13th I tell myself I am NOT going to work. I am so over the bad luck.
Is it really that much worse than other days? Are people sicker? Is it maybe that everyone is walking around irritable and more afraid than usual and it boils over into how they interact with others? Am I just hypersensitive? Is it a self fulfilling prophecy?
All I know is that I don’t want to do it anymore.
Then it sneaks up on me. Every single dang time.
There is nothing to do but just get through it. Buckle down and get it done.
And we do.
We always do.
This Friday the 13th it was different, though.
“She looks yellow…” the medical assistant whispered as I pulled up the chart.
I scanned her info. I’d never seen her before. Hypertension. Diabetes. Cholesterol. Nothing else remarkable.
Knocking authoritatively on the exam room door, I entered.
“Hi! I’m Dr. Denisof. Tell me what’s been going on?” I shook her hand, taking in her appearance. She was quite jaundiced.
“I don’t know. I woke up this morning and pretty much freaked out when I looked in the mirror.”
“Any other symptoms?”
She shook her head. “Nothing.”
“No fevers? Abdominal pain? Nausea? Diarrhea?” She shook head no each time.
I started examining, working my way from her head down. Eyes, ears, nose, throat all fine. Lungs clear. Heart regular rate and rhythm, no murmurs.
“Let’s have you lie down.”
Her abdomen sounded normal. I pulled off the stethoscope and palpated her abdomen. No masses. Liver felt maybe a bit enlarged. No pain.
I helped her sit up.
A strange look came over her face and she doubled over, gagging. Blood poured out of her mouth and into her hands, dripping onto her lap.
“Call the ambulance!” I yelled out the door then grabbed an emesis bag, thrusting it under her mouth. She gasped and the vomit stopped for a moment before another retch wracked her body, bringing up more. The room filled with the scent of rust and iron.
“Need help?” An MA stuck her head in:
“You called 911?”
“Can you print a chart summary and her last set of labs for the EMS?”
“And let the other patients know I am going to be running late while we deal with an emergency.”
Sirens were audible in the background, growing louder. Having a clinic so near the fire station definitely had its benefits.
Another retch, more blood.
I put my hand on the patient’s back and looked into her frightened eyes. “You are going to be OK.” She nodded but did not look convinced.
My mind was running through the differential diagnosis. Causes of rapid liver failure, fulminant hepatitis…. infection? Some sort of aggressive cancer? Drugs? A closet alcoholic?
The sound of a stretcher came from outside the door and two hunky firefighters in dark blue uniforms stepped in.
“What do we have here?” the tall one asked.
I gave the run down of what I knew, pointing at the bloody emesis bag.
As I spoke four sets of eyes grew bigger and the firefighters suddenly backed out of the room.
What the hell?
“Hang on, I’ll be right back,” I told the patient. I left the door cracked so I could hear any more vomiting or any sounds of distress.
One of the men muttered into a radio receiver on his shoulder. The other took a step toward me, his hands raised.
“Doc, we need for you to step back into the room.”
“Why? What’s going on.”
“You are quarantined.”
“What?” More sirens. Through the windows I could see police cars racing into the parking lot, surrounding the building.
“Look, no one can leave this clinic. No one. The CDC will be here shortly and they’ll explain everything.”
The above was a bit of fictional doctor horror brought to you by the month of October…