Funny things doctors say

parakeet closeup

Is it just me, or do doctors sometimes say funny things?

Some of you may remember the comment I heard from my doctor a couple of years ago.

After researching the Internet, which turns out to be a poor substitute for actual medical training, I was certain that I had a severe case of strep throat. So, I presented myself to our family doctor, and after I told him proudly of my diagnosis, he looked at my throat, appeared skeptical, and sent me to the nearest emergency room.

What I had apparently did not look to him like a strep infection.

Once at the emergency room the staff wasted no time calling an ear, nose, and throat specialist, who shined his tiny flashlight into my throat and said matter-of-factly: Oh, George Washington died from that.

As it turns out, he did. George Washington, that is, not my doctor. I looked it up later. The thing in my throat, I learned, was a quinsy, or peritonsillar abcess, and it killed the first president of the United States in 1799 by slowly asphyxiating him.

Not a pleasant way to go. As for me, I stopped for ice cream on the way home.

Yesterday I went to the doctor again, after my cold entered its second week and didn’t seem to be getting any better. This time I was under the care of a Swiss physician. I don’t know what the equivalent of an emergency room is here – yet – but I didn’t need one. I described my symptoms to the doctor in German, a little speech I memorized on the way over. And he of course was amused, as everyone seems to be, by my pronunciation and grammar.

He told me, in English, to take off my shirt so that he could listen to my chest. He looked in my ears and throat. He also took a bit of blood out of the end of my finger. The whole exam lasted maybe three minutes. Then he told me to get dressed. As he sat at his desk, writing on my chart, he began to quiz me about stupidity in U.S. politics, a topic I had not come prepared to discuss, in either German or English.

Finally, I said, in English, So, is it viral? And he said, No, it’s a bacterial infection that kills parakeets in Africa.

So, as you see, I’m battling spiritual forces in the universe that have brought down George Washington and untold numbers of African birds, and I also seem to find doctors – on both sides of the Atlantic – who enjoy passing along curious medical information.

That’s an update on my life.

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


13 Responses to Funny things doctors say

  1. Jodi January 16, 2015 at 3:53 am #

    Doug, you have managed to start my day with a nice dose of humor. Thank you D. Brouwer, web medicine man.

    • Doug January 16, 2015 at 5:12 am #

      I must have the equivalent of a medical degree after all the web browsing I’ve done to investigate the rare and exotic diseases that I’m pretty sure I have. Glad I could help with your morning, Jodi.

  2. Laurie Fuller January 16, 2015 at 8:21 am #

    Doug…first I still miss you, but you made my morning, what a funny story…maybe I should quarantine my parakeets, I don’t want to get sick. LOL…have a wonderful weekend.

    • Doug January 16, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

      I didn’t know you had parakeets, Laurie! They’re wonderful to have in the house, aren’t they?

  3. Mike H January 16, 2015 at 11:54 am #

    I think I speak for at least a few of your readers who are each thankful that “Doctor D” can’t write his own prescriptions….yet.

    • Doug January 16, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

      I’ll keep my prescriptions to the spiritual realm. I seem to speak with more authority there.

  4. Marvin Hage January 16, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    I have tried to prepare you for the world of medicine by both example and translation. It looks like I have failed again. When is the last time you have been with some unusual birds?

    • Doug January 16, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

      Dear Marv, I’ve decided to save our conversations for a post on “Funny things brothers in law say.” But it’s true that I’ve learned a great about medicine from you. I hope my comments about doctors have been full of appreciation. They keep saving my life from wierd diseases!

      • Bruce January 16, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

        Developed a sore throat traveling; visited a Salzburg, Austria MD who, after throat probes and hand signal communications with me (I spoke no German) issued a piece of paper, and ushering me to the exit, pointed me down the street to a pharmacy where I was issued several days’ penicillin … Cured soon and on my merry way elsewhere. Lesson: illness and its cure know no bounds; no barriers contain, no impediments restrain.

        • Doug January 18, 2015 at 12:26 am #

          Thanks for the story, Bruce. Interestingly, my doctor always seems to have the right medicine on the shelf behind him. One-stop shopping.

      • Marvin Hage January 17, 2015 at 8:38 am #

        I think there is another explanation for your most recent illness…too much “tweeting”!

        • Doug January 18, 2015 at 12:23 am #


  5. Catrina Hamilton January 19, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    This is really funny and so are your doctors! Oops ~ I hope you meant for your health report to be funny??