Medicine · Random

Of professional beghairati and medical jokes

The majority of the population feels a certain sort of disgust about bodily functions that is totally absent from the fraction of us who are in medicine. My first inkling of this was when a classmate told me about how her cousins had freaked out when she happened to mention the consistency of her diarrhoea to them (watery, brown in colour, 5 episodes).  They had apparently been rather vociferous in their declamation of their disgust, because my friend was actually pretty confused and hurt.

“I mean, we talk about this all the time.  I didn’t realise that they’d react that way. Yaar hum log kitnay ajeeb hain.”

I'm important!

I reassured her about our non-ajeebness and then promptly forgot about it.  That is, until yesterday, when I excitedly texted a non-medical friend about a case I’d seen, without realising how weird it must have seemed to him.  The conversation went something like this:

Fy: I’m home today!
Sh: Great. Does that mean you’ll be free tonight? 😉
Fy: haha
Sh: 😛 i saw a guy in the clinic today with balls swollen to the size of a watermelon.  He had a disease called elephantiasis.
Fy: U saw his balls?
Fy: Lmao!
Sh: Uh yes.  And the consultants kept making dick jokes and I just stood there trying not to laugh
Fy: He consultants or she?
Sh: Male consultants na.
Sh: It was so big man, his dick wasn’t even there, it was part of his giant balls.
Fy: Ewwww.
Sh:[realising about the graphicness, trying to justify it] uh well general surgery is mostly ew stuff.  Balls, asses, intestines, hernias. Rarely other stuff.
Fy:Lol. Keep it up!

Uh, when I said giant balls, I actually meant these.

Later embarassment aside, I’m glad I had this conversation.  It reminded me that not everyone is interested in discussing giant balls (even though they should be – it was such a rare interesting case!).  It also cautioned me from mentioning this story to another non-medical person – like my mother, for instance.  I have a habit of discussing interesting cases with her, even though she doesn’t understand all of it. But she was grossed out enough by my description of hemorrhoid ligation banding – giant balls would just be too much 😛

Of course we weren’t always this beghairat.  I remember sitting outside waiting for my car one day in first year, and listening to a senior in the Ob/Gyn rotation telling her group about this lactating woman’s breast discharges in a loud voice and perfectly comfortably, though the group had a lot of guys in it too.  Professionalism aside, I was still rather scandalised.  I hope we’re not going to discuss things like that so openly, I thought.

and touch 'those things' only with gloves.

That was until this year, when KK told our group a popular joke about the couple who came to fam med for infertility issues and were found to be ‘doing it wrong’. In a group of seven, with three of those guys.  And while we were all laughing, it didn’t even occur to me how much and how easily I’d lost all that shame.

Laughing is another issue.  While I suppose there are crude jokes in every profession, in medicine they seem to abound.  And the funny thing is in a mixed gathering one is often unsure of how to respond.  Do you admit to understanding and laugh?  Do you admit to understanding and put on a disapproving expression? Do you refuse to admit to understanding and simply look boggled?  With one’s friends you can often laugh, but in a clinic setting and with the consultant it can get rather uncomfy.

This happened to a classmate of mine.  Not only was she teamed with a particularly religious classmate when the doc made the quip, it was also early in the year when the beghairati was still underdeveloped. “So I’m like sir, isn’t morning stiffness (of the joints) characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis? And the consultant was like haan, haan but its not a big thing, then he winked and nudged R and said ‘Morning “stiffness” tou kabhi kabhi humein bhi hoti hai na’.  And then he starting laughing and it was so embarassing because even though R understood, he was sort of looking confusedly at me to see if I understood, and I wanted to laugh but I just sort of stared off to one side pretending I hadn’t heard’. 

Sir, I have no idea what you're talking about.

Nonetheless, it still doesn’t mean we’re completely insensitive as far as performing the examinations is concerned.  One does not do things like genital examinations or rectal examinations unless absolutely necessary.  As students we often weasel out of these examinations anyhow, leaving it to the consultant or resident to do. But in the long run the experience is actually necessary and unless you take something like radiology you have to do this stuff someday. Even in radiology there are PV ultrasounds and other stuff, come to think of it. 

And its not always about making fun 😛 we have a genuine reason to inquire. As a friend in general surgery remarked sadly once “They were examining him when the dude farted, and the consultant was so ridiculously happy about it – ‘The patient passed gas! It means we have been successful.’ Yaaar. I have never seen anyone so happy about farting.”  In general surgery in particular, the patients’ inside functionings and malfunctionings are the central topic of our discussions.

yes, dacsaab, the sputum was the exact colour your face is right now

This is separate, of course, from patient confidences, which are often depressing rather than funny, and which are rarely made active fun of in a general setting. I think there is a line between becoming a little beghairat and making jokes just so we can tolerate all the shit that we face daily, and outright brute insensitivity.  The first is merely a result of having been exposed to so much of this day in, day out, much more than normal people.

Anyhow, I am going to be a little more selective in my descriptions in future.  At least with non-med friends 😛


29 thoughts on “Of professional beghairati and medical jokes

  1. Fun Fun :D.

    So once during an embryology lecture, we were all dozing off and half-asleep and the teacher was saying something about the embryology of rectum. When he came to the external anal sphincter, he said: Developed from blah blah blah and Pathano ka yea sphincter buht well-developed hota hey.

    The class was drop dead silent. Nobody knew how they should react with a grey-haired professor making jokes like that. Then the professor started laughing himself and everyone laughed.

    Laoved your post 😀

    1. Heehee. That is so awkwardly hilarious. Its always like that for a few seconds when someone makes a joke like that. Even though you know you’re going to laugh about it and quote it afterwards 😀

      Thank you! And may I say I love your new lil doctor pic 😀 and that you’re back in the blogosphere (even if only occasionally.). I missed yew ^_^

  2. nice blog. I also face the same issue. First thing I wanna tell u is that I am too much serious regarding learning and physical exam. I have seen guys and gals laughing during DRE and rectal examination etc. This is the reason that women dont want boys to be present while doing breast examination. Once the teacher initially resisted the woman but later asked the boys to leave the room. I felt too much insulted (although it was boys fault who keep on laughing throughout the examination). I think such women should not then let male doc to examine their breasts coz after all he was also a student at some point in his life and he did “practised” on many women before he became consultant so I think this is insult to ALL those ladies coz such women think that those ladies were not human and they themselves are better. That is just hypocrisy.

    1. I totally understand. Its extremely annoying when someone refuses to be examined in front of you or by students, I mean how are we supposed to learn? Even if its a private hospital, it is also a teaching hospital and how is it going to teach if every patient shoos people out of the room.

      1. Yeah, and what about lesbians? Who’s to say there aren’t a few ladies looking at those boobies the wrong way? And breasts aren’t *every* guy’s favorite appendage(s), if you know what I mean. But really, the patient does have the right to refuse being examined under the observation of a third party if he/she isn’t comfortable and there’s no point in giving people rights if you think it’s ‘better’ if they don’t use them. (Case in point: khula.)

        Love your blog btw. 🙂

      2. Helloooo It is embarrasing for a male to strip infont of a cute looking lady doctor and a posse of medical interns! I had a medical problem and I refused to have my privates examined by this hot Lady Pakistani doctor here in Kuwait. Damn embarrassing… later on as luck would have have it I was examined by an Egyptian Doctor who had this bombshell of a Russian nurse ‘feel’ me up! Mixed feelings. “You are mine… would you like some vodka to go with the painkiller? (say that in Russain accent to feel exaclty what I went thru) Tee Heeee…

  3. Lol..LOVEE your post!! I’m sure there must be many other jokes that we hear day-to-day & tend to ignore coz of our surroundings in which-most of the time- are curious patients & we’ve got to act serious..=D
    An yeah general surgery IS about all this..and all you can do is share with yr med friends about their peculiarities.
    And guess what, the other day, I had to ask my cousin about her diarrhea problem, and had the same set of questions with the same tone..and she went like all serious..and at the end said, ‘Bajie..:$ Aap ye sab har ek se puchti hain?’ 🙂

    1. hehe, it is rather funny asking random strangers about their bowel habits, but a doc’s gotta do what a doc’s gotta do…no two ways about it, unfortunately. 🙂

  4. Hilarious! Gynae/Obs is a veritable goldmine of crazy medical jokes. As a doctor myself, I’ve shared (and even invented) a good number of them back in med school and during my practice.

    Anyway, I’ve discovered and bookmarked your fantastic blog. Hope to read more from you!

  5. He was shy telling what actually he had. he started like what I quoted above. I burst out with laugh at that time. then a friend of mine who wasnt a doc explained what he might have and he was right. He was having wet dreams 🙂

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