29 September 2008

Patients say the damndest things

He was 93 years old, and had come to the ER for what turned out to be CHF: tired, weak, short of breath on exertion, and a rapid pulse. Not too challenging, and I was practically filling out the admission orders before I even went into the room to see him.

He was a charming elderly gentleman, gravely dignified, and entirely cognitively intact. I interviewed and examined him and explained the plan.

"There's one more thing I'd like to talk to you about, doctor," he said, when I was done. "And I don't know what it is all about, but it has me quite concerned, I can tell you."

He took a deep breath, and continued, "I lost my penis yesterday."

It took a great deal of self-control on my part to keep my face straight and my voice even. "Really? Tell me about it."

"It was there the other day, but yesterday, it was just gone." Lowering his voice, in a conspiratorial whisper he added, "I think my body just swallowed it up."

The medical mystery was not a mystery at all: though he was a thin gentleman, he had been sitting in his chair a lot, and his pubic region was edematous. The swelling had caused his penis to involute, and it was entirely retracted. I explained gently to him that once we got the fluid off, it would be better, and his relief was palpable.

But still, I wager never again in my life will I hear someone say these words to me:
I lost my penis yesterday.

I love my job.


  1. That's what we can an "inny" in the ICU although it is usually accompanied by a basketball sized scrotum. Glad you could put his mind at ease.

    I have three year old twins and I said something the other day that I never thought I would ever utter. It was bath time and they are considering biting each other when frustrated or angry.... thank goodness the AC was on and the windows closed. "Don't you dare bite your brother's penis" was not something that I would have liked for the neighbours to hear.

  2. With obesity so rampant there are many who I think there are many that have NEVER seen their penis.


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