Friday, June 20, 2014

A Fitting Diagnosis

(Names and details changed for privacy)

“Doc, will you see this man tomorrow?” Nurse Kay gave me a very beseeching smile. “Please.”

“You know I normally avoid non-emergency consultation on Saturday, Kay,” I replied, unconvinced.

“But doctor, he was really disturbing me when you had to go out,” Nurse Kay grimaced as she shook her braids at the memory. “I thought he was going to bite my head off.” Her gesture conveyed a genuine sense of pain regarding the recent encounter.


“Yes, doctor,” she added in earnest. “I really had to talk to him a lot to get him to calm down. I promised him that you would see him tomorrow at eight o’clock.”

I realised this Friday had taken its toll on everyone’s patience, including my own. Complications and emergencies in the hospital ward, unplanned procedures, a funeral to pay homage to a fallen colleague in the medical field – the day had been a blur of activity. The frustrated, impatient frowns from the outpatient clients in the waiting room had not escaped my notice earlier.

Sensing my weakening resolve, Nurse Kay pressed home her supplication. “Please, doctor, I told him to be here promptly at eight o’clock.”

“You know I have church on Saturday, though.”

“ I told him that. He said he would be here at eight. I told him if he came late you would be gone to church.”

Nurse Kay knew she’d won her case. I sighed. “I already took the history and everything for you, doc.” She smiled with a triumphant grin and handed me the patient’s book.

I opened the green paperback notebook and peeked at the chief complaint.  I wondered what dire emergency had made this man angry when he wasn’t attended to in the clinic so promptly. I hoped that if he was seriously sick he would have consented to admission after a brief consult with our competent nursing staff. Thankfully, his vital signs were normal. He was 32 years old, I noticed. I shook my head. It usually takes a lot for an otherwise healthy adult male to see a doctor.

The next morning, Saturday, I walked over to the hospital to check on the inpatients. As expected, anytime I am in the hospital, other clients find me and I found myself completely occupied until 9:30 am. I forgot that I hadn’t even seen the mysterious impatient patient from Friday. By the time I remembered, I was already in church. I had certainly given him ample time to make it to his special appointment by 8 am. I had been around until 9:30. Perhaps he’d gone on to another hospital given the urgency of his demands?

Monday came round. Mondays have a bad habit of appearing every seven days, it seems…. Anyway, the client numbers in the outpatient clinic were above 30, so, much to half the folk’s dismay, some waited quite a while to see the doctor. At the end of the day, I noticed a familiar green medical booklet in my shelf.

“I called his name several times today,” I explained to Nurse Kay. “What happened?”

“He left, doc,” Nurse Kay shrugged. “He said he couldn’t wait.”

“He was only the second patient in line to be seen today though,” I countered. “Besides, I waited for him in the hospital on Saturday and he never showed.”


Tuesday came. I was hurrying to open up the clinic and get morning worship going. Several clients milled around the front door, waiting for our outpatient services to get started for the day.

“Doctor, I want to see you,” a young gentleman pressed forward as I stepped up on the porch to unlock the door.

“No problem,” I gave my automatic reply. “I will see you after we have our morning staff worship. You are welcome to join us.”

“But, doctor, I’ve been waiting. I want to see you now.”

I tried to take a step back as this gentleman was rather cramming into my personal space. (I’m not one to need a huge bubble either). I held up my hand in an attempt to keep us from bumping noses. “After worship, I will start my consults.” He was clearly not dying or in any visible pain. There was nothing externally wrong with him that gave any indication he needed to be seen more urgently in the hospital and be admitted.

“But, doctor, I’ve already paid to see you.”

“And I will see you – after worship,” I re-stated firmly. I gathered up the worship hymnals and passed them out. “Here, have a book,” I indicated a place on the bench for him to sit while I held out a book of hymns. The other staff and patients were thumbing through the pages, searching for a familiar melody. Assessing the situation, he grudgingly settled down.


“Mr. Johnson,” I looked at the now recognizable green book and name. So, he was back – again.

“Coming,” a familiar gentleman rose from the waiting room bench, pocketing his mobile phone. The gears clicked. The less-than-patient gentleman of the morning was none other than the mysterious missing patient from Friday. Interesting.

I sat down at my consult table and read over Nurse Kay’s detailed history of his main reason for consulting. Mr Johnson settled in the chair opposite.

“Doctor, I’m tired,” he frowned and turned his palms upward with a dramatic sigh. “I have a lot of responsibilities. I can’t wait.”

“Ashia,” I let him continue.

“Thank you, doctor,” he automatically replied. “Doctor, I came here on Friday and you were not. They told me you were at a funeral.”

I nodded in confirmation.

“I couldn’t wait until you came back.”

“I looked for you on Saturday,” I replied. “I waited for you until I went to church.”

“I came, doc, and you were not,” he insisted.

“Didn’t the nurse tell you to come at 8 am?”

“Yes, but doctor, you were not.”

“I waited for you until I went to church at 9:30 am.”

“But, doc, I came.”

“You came after I’d already left for church.”

He conceded the fact with a nod. “But, doc, when I came you were not.”

“I was at church.” Since church is generally considered a legitimate reason to abscond from the hospital, I knew Mr Johnson had little recourse to argue now. As I expected, my pronouncement silenced his complaints for a few moments.

“I’m here now,” I attempted to clear away the past and re-focus our meeting on the present. I gave him my full attention. “Now tell me about your problem. What brought you here to consult?”

Mr Johnson gathered his thoughts for a few moments and let them sort. He took a breath and released it slowly. Then he began. “Doctor, my girlfriend,” he paused, “my girlfriend’s not happy. When we make love my stamina is not too strong. I weaken too fast.”

“You mean that when you have an erection, you climax too quickly?” I clarified.

He nodded.

Diagnosis: Premature Ejaculation

Rather fitting, given the circumstances?


“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady.”

Romans 5:3,4