Sunday, January 9, 2011

North West Passage

One of the enjoyable things about studying in a different country is learning the local twists and turns of culture, specifically medical culture and language.

To me, the Irish have a musical lilt to their speech which I adore. I find my own voice and accent sound harsh to me now, to the point where sometimes I catch myself wincing when I speak. The North American prosody seems halting, staccato, and brusk where the Irish manner of speaking is sing-song, soft, and rolling (with some exceptions, naturally).

To add to the charm, they have an immense vocabulary of slang (the particularly entertaining ones are usually some sort of insult--like wagon, spanner, minger, puck, tosser, dosser, knob, wanker, scobe). Hmpf. Might have to make up my own version of Santa's eight reindeer next year.

Anyway, one expression that slays me every time is the euphemism "the back passage" for rectum.  This is actually used even in our clinical labs, profs saying things like, "d'you know now, if someone has a low BP and has a history of ulcers, he may be bleeding out the back passage". To which I have to hide my snicker and "did anyone else find that hilarious" expression. Call me childish. Call me Beavis. But it is beyond my control.

So a few days ago we get a call for a woman who has elevated blood sugar and decreased consciousness. The two paramedics I am with go into the bedroom (which I have found is always up a narrow flight of stairs and/or the smallest room in the house). I physically couldn't have fit in there even if I had wanted so I stand outside and talk to her sister. The sister is a right proper older Irish lady who is shaped like a refrigerator box on sturdy legs with her hair in a bun, and a thick cable knit cardigan slung over her shoulders.

I was asking about medical history and specifically diabetes history to which she informs me the patient has none. She very sincerely started telling me about the patients meds, and about a 'bad turn' she had last year when they gave her some medication up the back passage which sorted her out immediately.

In my state of sleep deprivation and dangerously high levels of caffeine I was borderline giddy as it was, but she had just struck my professional Achilles. I bit down on my lip and looked at my gloved hands.

"Mmmmhmmm", I say, thinking, arrange face in serious, concerned manner.

"Yes, I am not sure what it was but they gave it up the back passage and it really seemed to work!"

"Okaaayyyy. Well I am not sure what that might have been but they'll have that info at the hospital I am sure." Please don't let her say that phrase again or I'll lose it. 

"Yes, now that I think about it, she'd never been given anything up the back passage before..."

I felt my face uncontrollably twist into a semi-grin and I tried to mask it by faking a twitch and then a cough. I mumbled something about needing to fetch some gloves out of the ambulance and bolted, pretty sure that I was the most horrible, unprofessional, medical student/nurse that had ever responded to an EMS call.

I just can't help myself. Especially after working in the Arctic. All I can see in my minds eye is Cabot or Amundsen with a fortified ship and compass trying to negotiate their way up the back passage. A journey no man had undertaken before, one they may never return from...heh.

Beavis. I know.


Grumpy, M.D. said...

Hmmm. Perhaps this explains the fate of the Franklin Expedition.

Albinoblackbear said...

Heheh, my thoughts exactly!

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Well, it IS an area where the sun doesn't shine (for 6 continuous months).

Anonymous said...

If that's the case, then Icebergs are....

Cara said...

Love it. Am stealing it. Any euphemisms for the "down there" parts I hear get put into rotation... I don't know why but "anus" is just the most irritating word ever. And "bum" just sounds childish.

"The Back Passage" has an aura of mystery to it.

Albinoblackbear said...

Grump--Nice one.

IANT--Ohhhh! You went there!! hahah

Cara--Glad I could be of service. =)

Ami said...

Perhaps you were a 12 year old boy in your past life?

I work with kids.

I'm pondering teaching them this one.

Mm. Maybe not.
But thanks, I'm sure it will end up in our family's lexicon. So much more elegant than pooper.

Albinoblackbear said...

"Perhaps you were a 12 year old boy in your past life?"

Strangely enough, this speculation has surfaced in the past, when I became obsessed with spaceships and nintendo DS a few years ago. I did not go as far as getting Star Wars pj's though...

I blame it all on the physics labs which were warping my brain.

Shrtstormtrooper said...

I'm glad you held on to professionalism as long as you did. I've been known to have to leave the room on the first mention of anything remotely beavis-ish.

Beach Bum said...

I loved this one too. I also loved urologists asking with a straight face if there was anything wrong with a patient's waterworks.

Liana said...

Thanks. Because of you I burst out laughing during our lecture on malaria today (lecturer is Welsh, and was talking about children "fitting" and putting diazepam up the back passage).

The other Beavisish thing he said repeatedly today was "cock up".

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Oh, sure Liana. You had to bring THAT up.

There's a hand surgeon in my building who's always dictating that his patients need a "cock-up splint". And I always wonder what he's REALLY operating on.

Albinoblackbear said...

STT--Yeah, there are only a few times where I've had to bail on a situation, but they've all been memorable! =)

BB--Yes! I've heard the waterworks. But mostly in Victoria when the older docs were talking to little old guys.

Liana--heheh! Sorry! =) Well I suppose the worst thing would be if a GI surgeon started talking about a cock up in the back passage.

Grump--What the HELL is a cock-up splint?