Friday, February 23, 2007


I briefly mentioned my fear of sputum in my last post. I would like to expand on this subject.

I dislike spit. I don't want to do anesthesia because there's a lot of spit-suctioning, which is nasty. I just don't like it.

Phlegm and sputum, however, are an entirely different story. This past month, I had three patients in a row with a chief complaint of "shortness of breath". When I went to see them, they were coughing, and all three proceeded to hack up HUGE loogies in my presence. And then show me the contents of the emesis basin.

That's three separate patients who were almost barfed on.

When someone starts producing phlegm, I look away. I started staring at the telemetry monitors on all of these patients, like "ooh, shiny and non-nauseous!"

I first realized I had a problem with sputum on pediatrics. I had an asthmatic kid who started hacking up nastiness, and I wasn't prepared for it, and I almost retched. My resident laughed at me. A nurse nearby agreed with me that it was a horrible thing.

I've realized that many medical students (and indeed, health professionals) tend to have at least one bodily secretion which they can't really seem to deal with. For me, it's phlegm/sputum. For my friend Barbie, it's pus. The very idea of pus offends her soul. Another friend, Latin Lover, can't stand feces, to the point where the DRE gives him trouble. I'm certainly not crazy about feces, especially when an adult human poops on themselves while cursing the nursing staff who are trying to help him get a bed pan, but the rectal exam doesn't cause me to vomit. For LL, it's another story, apparently (not that he vomited).

Why is it that we can handle some things, but not others? Why are some bodily fluids nastier than others? Why do doctors wear white coats, when we come in contact with human nastiness every day? Indeed, why is medicine considered such a "noble" profession, when it is necessary to dabble in bodily excreta every day in nearly every medical field?

I don't know, but I do know that I do not like sputum.


Couz said...

Yes! Someone who understands!

My nausea-inducing secretion is definitely phlegm. And my goosebump-inducing body part is teeth.

I can deal with an open fracture. I've chiseled a nasal septum like a champ. I can deal with sticking things in (or pulling things out of) people's eyes. Hell, I'll even do a urethral swab if I have to. But show me someone with dental trauma and I'm running for the door.

The Peanut Gallery said...

Ew! For me, it is toenails and eyeballs. I cannot watch a toenail removal, nor can I look at a nail about to fall off. I would pass out.
And I cannot see things sticking in eye balls. Even in surgery. Gross.

Allison said...

thanks i feel kinda sick now.

by the way, i heard elliot on scrubs say something about "scut work"... what is that?

frectis said...

Mucus from any orifice.