I'm not a real doctor
I'm one of the lucky people who get to do what they love every day. I feel like I was born to be a veterinarian. I can't imagine doing anything else. I've been at it for 27 years, and even though I get tired of working at times, I still love how our practice functions.
I still remember, back in the mid 1980s, what a large task it was to get into veterinary school. I wasn’t sure I would, and I thought about applying to medical school as a backup. I wanted to do surgery on animals, but if I couldn’t get a veterinary degree, I figured people were animals too.
Boy, am I glad I got in. People ick me out. I can do a C-section on a rotten cow fetus while eating a hamburger—doesn’t bother me a bit. But if you brought me a human stool sample, I'd gag and run for the hills.
Here's an example. It was a warm day a few summers ago when a nurse, in scrub pants and scrub top, showed up with her cat. I had gone over the chart before heading into the exam room and saw the complaint was mites.
We shared a little small talk before getting the cat out of the box. I was expecting her to open the box and reveal a gross-looking cat with patches of hair missing and smelly dermatitis. But when she opened the box, the cat came out purring and looking completely fine.
I picked up the critter and began the search for signs. Nothing. In fact, the cat had a wonderful, well-groomed coat and smelled great. I picked through the fur and touched the patient from head to toe. Nothing.
The lady watched me intently, not saying a word. I started to get the uneasy feeling that she thought I was an idiot because I couldn't find the mite infestation. I finally gave up and explained to her that I couldn't find any indication that the cat had mites, and I asked her what made her think it did. She just smiled a kind smile and looked almost embarrassed. At first I thought she was feeling sheepish because she'd come all the way over to the vet for a nonexistent problem. But that wasn’t the case.
“I think the cat has mites because I have them, and my doctor told me that I most likely got them from my cat."
“I think the cat has mites because I have them, and my doctor told me that I most likely got them from my cat," she said. "So I wanted to see if there is any on him and get you to treat them so they wouldn't keep getting on me.”
This was a strange revelation. I looked at the woman carefully now, up and down, and I didn’t see any suspicious lesions. I'd never seen a case of cat mites on a person and had no idea what such an infestation would look like on human skin. Remember, I'm not a real doctor. And remember, people stuff really icks me out.
But I decided to be brave and ask where the infestation was located. I wasn’t even sure people could get cat mites, but if her doctor told her that's what it was, I wanted to see it.
She didn’t miss a beat. She said, "Sure," and came around to my side of the table.
This nurse lady pulled her scrub pants and underwear down to just above her knees ...
When she got about three feet from me, this nurse lady pulled her scrub pants and underwear down to just above her knees. (Did I mention I'm not a real doctor?) She then began pointing to an area that's probably the one you guessed and scratched it a few times while explaining how bad it itched.
I found myself bending down to get a closer view of the lesion. Then suddenly it dawned on me: This lady is mostly naked ... and I'm bending down to get a closer look. These human medical types see naked people all the time and think nothing of it. Not me. I see naked animals all the time and think nothing of it.
I felt my ears getting hot and my face turning red. I probably shouldn't have asked in the first place, but I had no idea that what I was asking was gonna be so personal!
I think she noticed my discomfort and covered up. She went on to tell me more about her symptoms, but I didn’t hear a word. All I could do was think about what had just happened. Somehow I wrapped up the appointment with what dignity I could muster and assured her that her cat was fine. I never did find out what the cause of that lady’s itching was (I’m kind of guessing it was not feline mites), but that’s OK with me!
Of course, I know we all realize that veterinarians are real doctors. But when people ask us about human medical problems, well, we're not usually ready to see them naked.