Tuesday, October 9, 2007


What happens when a hypochondriac starts learning Medicine?

My mom is convinced that I am one. (I'm not.) She reminds me of the time I 'pretended' to have appendicitis to get out of school. She says I got the idea from Roald Dahl. I had fever, I vomited, and the paediatrician hurt me when he palpated my abdomen, so I winced. He told me it was appendicitis. Reading 'Boy' the week before had nothing to do with it. Come on, how could an eleven-year-old know where the McBurney's point is? But my mom insists that my getting well in a week, without surgery, had something to do with me faking illness. *indignant*

I'm not a hypochondriac, but I do tend to think "Hey! That's my symptom." when I read my books. Who hasn't felt that way? But that doesn't make me a you-know-what.

We were told to auscultate our own hearts as homework, during our Medicine posting, to know what a normal heart sounds like. I swear I wouldn't have done that unless they'd told us to. The time when I got my new stethoscope doesn't count. I had even auscultated my cat. So, the homework. I looked at my Littmann. Littmann stared back at me. I gently put the ear piece in my ears (duh!), and lightly tap the diaphragm. Whoa! That was loud. I place it on my mitral area. Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-click-dub. Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Wait a second. Was that a mid-systolic click? Lub-click-dub. Lub-click-dub. Yes. It is. *thunder and lightning* (for effect)

Mitral Valve Prolapse. It's not as scary as the name. It is usually asymptomatic, non-progressive, and benign. The only disability is that patients can't travel to the Moon. Or got to outer space. Some of my cousins have MVP, and so does my brother. That's a positive family history. Marfanoid features is another indicator. Um, yeah, that too. Some.

I looked up MVP on the net. I was all "Oh boy! Oh boy!" while reading it. To quote, "The typical profile is a slender (yeah, baby!) young (yeah, baby!) female (yeah, baby!) with long, tapering fingers (yeah, baby!) and a model’s figure (Oh, boy! Oh, Boy!)." Can you blame me for thinking have MVP? Also, people with MVP are high strung, prone to anxiety attacks, and have a hypersensitive startle reflex. All me. It doesn't require any treatment, so I haven't gotten it confirmed. I'm sticking to the 3rd rock.

That doesn't make me a hypochondriac. Meet a true hypochondriac (I checked, it doesn't have any synonyms.), my friend Fat (name chosen for obvious reasons). It was summer, and she wasn't drinking as much water as she should have been (given the state of the toilets in the common room). Her pituitary compensated by increasing its ADH production.
Fat (after a trip to the toilet): Nothing.
Me: Oh.
Fat: Could it be renal failure? Like that patient we saw today?
Me (checks pulse): Looks normal. No oedema. Um, doesn't look like renal failure.
Fat: But there's definite oliguria. In fact, I might even say anuria.
Me: Anything else?
Fat: Very irregular. Only once or twice a day. It's dark.
Me: And you think it's renal failure? Seriously?
Fat: It isn't?
Me: If you'd use that brain of yours, assuming you have one, you'd know.
Fat: Oh, yeah. Man, can't believe I missed it. Enlarged prostate!
Me: (I didn't say anything, but you can imagine the expression on my face.)
Fat: Oh. You were saying?
Me: Drink more water.

My brother told me about the 3rd year syndrome, a condition that affects medical students who have started their clinical postings. He looked forward to my claiming that I had hydrocoele*, because he considers me a You-Know-What. Fat's enlarged prostate certainly gives her Voldemort status.

To use a dreadfully clichéd expression, on the other side of the coin, there are many genuinely ill people who pretend they are perfectly well. One of the guys in my class (let's call him Leg) came to the Orthopaedics OPD, with muscle weakness. He'd been shifting rooms, and Sir laughed and said it was due to the strain, and prescribed a pain killer. But something in his gait warned Sir, and he called Leg back. He asked him to squat on the ground, and get up without using his arms for support. He couldn't. Proximal muscle weakness. Leg insisted he was fine, but he was forcibly referred to Neurology, where he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome and was hospitalised. (He recovered completely, in case you were wondering.)

One of the things I do have is migraine. I've had it since I was 8, with all the classical symptoms. It doesn't come on very often, once in a few years or so, but when it does, it's hell. I need a dark, soundproofed room to rest in until the attack passes, with a toilet close by so I can go puke my guts out every 2 hours, and loads of painkillers that don't do any good. Since it's the classical type, I can prevent an attack as soon as I start seeing shimmery lights. The last episode was 4 years ago, and I can't tell you how happy I am about it.

Ordinary headache is one of my pet miseries, there's never a time when I don't have even a twinge. Sometimes, it gets really bad, with severe pain in my eye, like a red hot poker inside my skull is trying to gouge my eye out. I've consulted plenty of doctors, they would give me Paracetamol, and that was it. But it never did much good.

Imagine my horror when I heard one of my teachers saying 'severe pain in the eye, usually unilateral, throbbing in character, is typical of migraine. If not preceded by any aura, it's common migraine.' I have both kinds of migraine? Oh. My. God.

I had an atypical migraine headache yesterday. I'm supposed to start long term drug therapy if I get another one soon. I'm hopelessly forgetful when it comes to taking any sort of medicines on a regular basis, but something tells me I won't forget it this time.

*Seemed like a good opportunity to reminisce about a hydrocoele surgery I saw. It was a huge one, and it splashed all over my mask when they were cutting it open. Ewwww! moment.


Sreejith said...

mig-rains are also when IAF's MIG's rain from the sky which unfotunately happens very often.
just checked...people of my proportions have a life expectancy of 55! would that make me eligible to be a hypochondriac? chalo atleast dharti pe bhoj nahin banunga :D

hope and love said...


Spunky Monkey said...

I am convinced I am HIV+; I am not saying this for effect, no Miss. But the lymph nodes on me say a horrid story.
Marfan's also. Not to mention Ehler-Danlos (you should see my flexibility to believe it; and of course, the surgeon-esque long fingers)
I used to think I had William's, what with extreme case of verbosity. I even wrote about it. (Please to check) But while in pediatrics, I read that one of the features of William's was micropenis. I have been playing that card a lot lesser since.

You are a funny girl ya.

Hershey Desai said...

easy. He/She goes bankrupt trying to cure himself.

This is probably a good valid reason why not to study medicine..hypochondriac or otherwise...

a heart goes lub dub.. its pretty funny. Sometimes it goes "bad boys bad boys whatcha gonna do"... this is why its not wise to hang your cellphone near your neck

mitral valve prolapse... this is news to me.
anxiety attack, high strung and hypersensitive be damned... according to your description my ideal girl is one with MVP!
Must add that to my list.

Can you imagine those matrimony sites where someone will specify.."must have MVP"

wow...the medical jargon at times really doesn't make sense... makes me wish I had actually given that entrance exam and dragged my butt into this profession...

"hydrocoele"...now that I have heard somewhere...ah. I remember, it was around the time I was doing my inplant training in the hospital... I had a chance to view the operation.. I have never been more frightened in my life..
I just peeked in the OT ..was there to fix a defib.. and yelled out.. THEY ARE CUTTING HIS BALLS!!!!!!

quite embarrassing..

oh... so I have migraines. And here I thought its just my eyes trying to run away from my sockets to escape studying.

sigh.. its so cool to see surgeries upfront... though..what happened to you was totally disgusting. Maybe I should get back to that hospital for more training... I loved talking to patients and visiting OTs..its too bad they expect me to fix stuff..

Keshi said...


Im a hypochondriac myself and thats why I avoided the Medical profession lol!

I wrote a similar post here:



Keshi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tys on Ice said...

docs with appendics/ migrines...now spunky with aids...whts the world coming to?

my wife has migrines and trust me , i totally feel for u...and i also stay far whn it strikes her...

Kavitha said...

Well written.....hillarious man...

I am glad I got married to a doctor after he finished all of his 5 years of medicine :)
Otherwise probably I would be diagnosed with something horrible...

Ziah said...

Innocent question AP - Do most women have MVP?? Or am I confusing it with non-PMSing days???

And ya, at the rate at which ur experiencing illness, you're gonna be one helluvan empathetic Doc! :)

Bullshee said...

It's funny how involved docs are in their studies, which of course eventually becomes work...

I studied Civil Engg, but I still don't remember looking at buildings and saying, 'yes, a single beam used as a cantilever. I wonder how much live load it can take?'

Nice post AP...

tangled said...

I remember it from an episode of House some time.

I love your blog. :)

Adorable Pancreas said...

Oh, so that's how migraine got the name. It feels like a MIG fell on your head.

@hope and love:
Thanks. :)

@spunky monkey:
I have a couple of cervical nodes. I'm wondering how to tell my family that I have cancer. So did you acquire the virus? (purely professional curiosity, if you thought I was being a nosy parker)
Williams patients are mentally retarded, I think. Dear, dear.
And thankoo.:)

@hershey desai:
So that's why I'm broke!
Asking for MVP on your matrimonial profile can't be as bad as asking for 'white, beautiful, homely, God fearing girl from rich family'. WTF?
Did you really run out of the OT? I was tempted to when I saw a vaginal hysterectomy. *shudder*

At least you've prevented 3rd year syndrome! It's somewhat humiliating to consult a prof about your symptoms and have it attributed to 3rd year syndrome when it turns out there's nothing wrong.

@tys on ice:
The world is probably ending. Hopefully the headache will kill me long before that happens.

Thankyoo. :)
I keep diagnosing myself with incurable diseases. Your husband seems to got over that phase.

You could be. ;)
That's an advantage I hadn't noticed. Thanks!

We do, don't we? I diagnose conditions in people I see on the road. "Oh, look. That guy has foot drop." and "That bus driver seems to have tunnel vision, the @#$!%&."
So, how much live load can it take?
Thanku bullshee.

Finally. Somebody with good taste. :)