Article Date: 12/1/2008

He Won First Prize at the Science Fair
lessons learned

He Won First Prize at the Science Fair

At times, the things people say can be as tricky as optical "Aleutians."

JACK RUNNINGER, O.D.

Reportedly a student at Eagle Rock Junior High won first prize at the Greater Idaho Falls Science Fair. In his project he urged people to sign a petition demanding strict control or elimination of the chemical "dihydrogen monoxide." His reasons:

► It is a component in acid rain.

► Accidental inhalation can kill you.

► It contributes to erosion.

► It can cause severe burns in its gaseous state.

► It has been found in tumors in terminal cancer patients.

He asked 50 people if they supported a ban of this chemical. Forty-three said yes. Six were undecided. Only one realized that "dihydrogen monoxide" is a chemical term for water.

Understanding the things people say can be tricky. Optometric patients are no exception. For example:

Can't remember

When asked by Dr. Catherine Ford, Lake Park, Fla., if he took any medications, an elderly patient replied, "Yes. I take something for my memory, but I can't remember what it is."

► "Have you lived here all your life?" I once asked a rather taciturn old gentleman, in making conversation prior to his exam.

"Not yet," was his reply.

► "Did Cyclops have 20 vision?" a smart aleck patient asked me. Another told me that he had spent a fortune on deodorants before he finally realized people didn't like him anyway.

► "In Alaska, I thought I saw an eye doctor," said another crazy patient. "But I discovered it was only an optical Aleutian."

► Humorist Dave Barry tells of the patient who was being prepared for a colonoscopy. "When you're finished, could you write a note to my wife saying my head is not up there?"


ILLUSTRATION BY AMY WUMMER

Terminology

Other strange patient responses are due to their misunderstanding of medical terminology. Dr. Ford also reports that one of her patients refers to her macular degeneration as "immaculate conception."

► Dr. Michael Feinstein, Newark, N.J. , says he has had patients ask for Duracell (Durasoft) contact lenses, genetic (generic) medicines, and ask if his office took Edna (Aetna) insurance.

► "I take a precious (pressure) pill every morning," and "I had romantic (rheumatic) fever" are other patient responses I've heard.

► "We were really confused," began a recent story from a medical technician in Readers Digest. "While transcribing medical audiotapes, a colleague came upon the following garbled diagnosis: 'This man has pholenfrometry.' Knowing nothing about that particular condition, she double-checked with the doctor. After listening to the tape, he shook his head.

"This man," he said translating for her, "has fallen from a tree."

► "One day in our pediatric clinic," began another great patient story from Reader's Digest. "I handed a young lad a urine sample container," wrote a medical technician, "and told him to fill it up in the bathroom. A few minutes later, he returned to my nurse's station with an empty cup."

"I didn't need this after all," he said. "There was a toilet in there."

► Which reminded me of the experience of another optometrist, who had a patient with the last name of Wright. In explaining how it was spelled and pronounced, he said, "The ‘W’ is silent. Like the ‘P’ in swimming." OM


JACK RUNNINGER, OUR CONSULTING EDITOR, LIVES IN ROME, GA. HE'S ALSO A PAST EDITOR OF OM. CONTACT HIM AT RUNNINGERJ@COMCAST.NET.

Optometric Management, Issue: December 2008