||[Nov. 15th, 2012|08:52 pm]
I'm still job-interviewing at psychiatric hospitals. The quality of weird story you get here is incredible.
I heard the story of a doctor from China who picked up a psychiatry position at the hospital here; she'd never been to the States before but during her interview her English had been pretty good. So they hire her and give her some patients and she starts by prescribing some pretty strong antipsychotics for someone who doesn't appear all that sick. When the higher-ups question her, she explains:
"The patient has severe somatic delusions. He claims to have butterflies in his stomach. Also, he says he ate a submarine yesterday".
It sounds like one of these urban legends, but I heard it from a doctor who says he witnessed the conversation himself. Doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the system.
I don't buy it, but for a reason different than you might guess. I can't think of any place in the US where people regularly say "submarine" for sandwich, even "submarine sandwich" is pretty rare these days, and "sub" means so many different things and is a prefix for so many different things (including medically) that... well, I mean if the patient's English was terrible too, that would be a thing. But yeah, it seems a bit overly specific.
The doctor telling me the story said it happened about twenty or thirty years ago, when he was in training, and mentioned that the patient was elderly. I wonder if people used that term more often in the past?
Ahh - maybe. That makes a little more sense then!
On the other hand, given what we know about memory reconsolidation, twenty or thirty years means it's just as easily something he heard from the chief resident back then, who in turn heard it from a friend of a friend...
Or not. But some stories, especially those retold verbally, lose their traceability after a while.
That it stuck in his memory so long is a good sign that it was anomalous.
I'm pretty sure I've read that story before. I'm not sure where exactly. Maybe it was from back when I was reading a lot of NLP stuff. It could have been Nuero Linguistic Programming, or Psycho Cybernetics, or Frogs into Princes.
Huh. I'm going to see the doctor again today, so I may try some more probing into whether he's *sure* he heard it himself.
That is fantastic. which makes it doubtful.
Way to good to be true...
Just random editorial whim. Didn't want to mix a somewhat sad and politically important story (about horrible prison system) with a funny story (although admittedly still sorta horrible), and thought it would be more readable if I stuck to one story per entry.
In response to the urban legend complaints, I talked to the original doctor again. This is a well-respected cardiologist who's also a long time friend my family. He confirms he was there at the time, he named the hospital and the year this took place, and named the doctor involved. I'm not going to give the names so that I don't embarrass anyone.
This ties in nicely to your previous post about learning languages. I'm dreadfully mono-lingual myself (all the French I learned departed as easily as it arrived, despite the fact I love the language) but the problems I had were not with the rote-learning of grammar; it's exactly this kind of thing - the informal vocabulary, the slang, the elisons, the little tics of speech we all use.
Learning from a book in a classroom situation meant your Chinese doctor was probably perfectly competent to read and dispense medical instructions, but hadn't a clue about common expressions. If the patient had said "I feel nervous or apprehensive", she would have understood; saying the same thing as "I have butterflies in my tummy" sounds as crazy to a non-English speaker as some common expression in another language would probably sound to us.
Take an example: Irish language proverb that translates as "Faraway cows have long horns." Guess what that means? (Scroll down for answer).
Answer: it's the equivalent of "The grass is always greener on the other side of the hill".