Detail from back cover for "Dude, Where's My Stethoscope?" by Donovan Gray, M.D. (Illustrator Dave Whamond)
Over the course of my illustrious ER career I've triumphed over such dire emergencies as mosquito bites, sunburns, diaper rashes, insomnia and requests to have Disability forms filled out.
—Dr. Donovan Gray, M.D. and author
Author Donovan Gray knows first hand that laughter can be excellent medicine when it comes to the serious goings-on in hospitals. Gray is an emergency room doctor at Victoria General Hospital in Winnipeg. He reflects on his experience, from his med school days, to his work in northern Ontario and here in Winnipeg in his first book, Dude, Where's My Stethoscope?
Aside from being a tribute to the so-bad-it-was-almost-good Ashton Kutcher flick, according to Dr. Gray, the title refers to one of the short stories in the book. "Believe it or not, when I was a medical student a patient actually stole my stethoscope! Talk about chutzpah! Did I track him all the way to the gates of hell to get it back? You'll have to read the book to find out," he says.
Gray says he wrote this book because he wanted to give readers a candid view of the world as seen through the eyes of an ER physician. "We don't wear spandex, and we can't leap tall buildings in a single bound. We're just everyday people trying to do a challenging job to the best of our abilities."
SCENE asked Dr. Gray to tell us five things most people don't know about the ER.
1. The term ER is a misnomer - Emergency Rooms should officially be renamed "Everything But the Kitchen Sink Rooms." On second thought, make that "Everything Including the Kitchen Sink Rooms." In a recent wholly biased and unscientific study that was conducted entirely within the confines of my addled imagination, only 5% of patients presenting to most emergency departments were found to have true emergencies. 15% were suffering from problems of a reasonably urgent nature, while the remaining 80%...well, let's just say that they'll live to fight another day. Tally ho!
2. Contrary to what is portrayed on television, ERs are not sexy places to work. Not unless your idea of sexy involves hopscotching over various unidentified bodily fluids as you race down the hall to treat the new guy in room 11 who just started seizing. What's that you say? That doesn't sound too sexy? Didn't think so.
3. NYD, which stands for "Not Yet Diagnosed," (e.g. abdominal pain NYD) is a common and legit emergency room diagnosis. As opposed to what usually occurs on shows like ER, many people leave real-life emergency departments without a firm diagnosis. In other words, we've ruled out life-threatening diseases, but we don't know exactly what it is that's ailing you.
This is particularly true in cases where symptoms have been going on for months or years. If your family physician, three walk-In docs, five specialists and the entire Mayo Clinic haven't been able to unravel the mystery of your chronic fatigue, it's unlikely that I will either. Especially if the guy in room 11 starts seizing again.
4. At night most ERs run on a shoestring budget - one doc, a skeleton crew of nurses, minimal specialist backup, limited CT availability and zero ultrasound. Unfortunately, accidents and illnesses have a nasty way of occurring round the clock. Can you spot the problem here?