Friday, December 28, 2012


She was six years old, tow-headed and blue-eyed, whip-smart and just as precocious as she could be. 

She had a raging, fluctuant abscess in her axilla about the size of an egg.  It had been there, erythematous and growing, for six weeks by the time they finally came in to be seen.  It was painful for her - and it looked it.  Luckily, the treatment of an abscess is straightforward: you incise and drain it.  For a pediatric patient, this would be done under anesthesia in the operating room.

She came in to the hospital with her father, and they were shown into one of the day surgery suites, where they would wait until she was taken back to the OR.  The surgical intern went to do her pre-operative history and get consent for the surgery.  When she was asking details about the time course of this rather large lump in the patient's armpit, her father explained that they had noticed it a few weeks back, but that he had not brought her in sooner because he had assumed it was an enlarged lymph node.  She had had a recent cold, and her father chalked it up to that for a while until he realized it wasn't resolving.  

The intern began to explain to him and his daughter that it appeared that the lump, instead of an enlarged lymph node, was actually an abscess. 

"This basically means that it is a collection of pus from an infection somewhere that the body has walled off into this pocket, and that is what we are going to drain today."

The father politely cut off her explanation, "Yes, I know what an abscess is.  I have a PhD in Biology."

The  daughter piped up:

"Yeah, and he thinks he is smarter than aaaallll the doctors!"

1 comment:

  1. My mother has this affliction as well. Unfortunately she does not have a PhD in anything remotely connected to science or medicine (unless English literature counts). I just try to avoid discussing anything health-related with her because it's so maddening.


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