July 5, 2011 1 Comment
My wife is a consultant anaesthetist. She works in a well renowned North London hospital. One of the surgeons she works with is a paediatric specialist of some repute. A complaint they regularly treat in infants is something called DDH or Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip. This is where either the ball or the socket of the hip is not correctly or fully developed and requires intervention to make sure that it develops correctly.
A common treatment for this is a type of plaster cast which holds the legs and hips in the correct position. It then often requires a that a horizontal brace be incorporated into the cast at about ankle level, so that the whole cast forms an “A” shape with the brace as the cross-bar. There is no special instrument or implement prescribed for creating this brace so surgeons tend to improvise. The surgeon in question favours wooden walking sticks. These are cheap, abundantly available in hospitals and can be quickly and easily sawn to the exact length required.
One of the theatre staff can pop out to the medical supplies room, grab a walking stick and remove the rubber end-cap so that the exact length can be sawn off the end. At the end of the procedure the it is common practice to pop the rubber end-cap back on the sawn-off stick and hang the stick back up in the medical supplies room with the other walking sticks. That way the surgeon may get two or three braces out of a single stick. Over time quite a collection of these little walking sticks had built up.
The other day one of the senior theatre staff was showing trainees round the theatre suite.
“This is the supplies room”, he said and proceeded with the usual tour of where to get what. As they were turning to leave one of the trainees caught his eye.
“What are these little walking sticks for?”, the trainee asked.
Without missing a beat the staff member replied, “Those are for Dwarf Clinic.”
“What’s Dwarf Clinic?” the trainee enquired.
“We run regular clinics for Dwarfs,” came the reply. “The circuses have always favoured us because they can make camp in the surrounding fields during the off-season and the performers can come in for treatments that are hard to undergo while they are constantly on the move.” The hospital is indeed surrounded on three sides by fields.
“Dwarfs, contortionists, sword-swallowers, fire-eaters”, he continued, “we’ve treated them all here.”
“That’s fantastic” boggled the trainee, “I had no idea”.
It is a credit to the other theatre staff that they all managed to keep straight faces during this exchange and managed to maintain their composure even when later the trainee had cornered the hospital’s Head of Training in the corridor outside theatre and was overheard to ask, “…and while I’m here I’d really appreciate it if I could attend one of the Dwarf Clinics.”
There was a flicker of confusion on the senior man’s face as the trainee was whisked away down the corridor, the ensuing conversation echoing back, “We’ve had to cancel them. The land has been sold to property developers and the circuses can’t afford to lease it any more.” “That’s awful!” “I know, but what can we do ? One just hopes they’ll be able to find another hospital with the right facilities.”
I worry that this amusing fabrication will now leak out and take on a life of its own as urban legend. I fully expect to turn on Question Time in a few weeks to hear some minister being harangued over the lamentable state of affairs in the NHS that has led to fat cat property developers in the green belt causing medical treatment units for persons suffering from dwarfism to be closed. The headlines about big business filling its boots at the expense of the little man just write themselves.