[The following story is totally fictional in nature. Any resemblance to persons dead or alive is purely coincidental.]
During my fourth year of medical school, I had the opportunity to admit a severely-ill patient to the surgical ward.
Just from her appearance, I instinctively knew that she probably had gallstones, and was most likely suffering from biliary colic (a transient obstruction of the gallbladder from an impacted stone). There is an unflattering mnemonic, which medical students are taught, detailing the characteristics of the typical patient with gallstones.
The attributes of this disease are said to begin with the letter “F”, and this patient certainly had all of them; Fifty-five to be exact; Fat—enough to be on the cover of the Guinness Book Of World Records; Fertile—ten kids she told me with glee; Fair—she was a very fair, East Indian lady; Flatulent—(You do not want to know how I found this out!)
After introducing myself as a medical student, acquiring her history, performing the physical examination, and conducting appropriate investigations, I had confirmed my spot diagnosis. I discussed the case with the doctor on duty, and instituted the appropriate treatment.
Since I had seen her first, this patient was assigned to me. She proved to be extremely challenging.
“Doc,” she groaned, “could you get my bag for me?”
“Doc,” she moaned, “could you check my pressure again!”
“Doc, could you explain what my gallbladder is again—is it near my prostrate gland? Wait- hold that thought—Doc Ah feeling another movement—quick, get the bedpan, get the bed pan- quick, quick, quick!”
After a night of pain and torture for us both, she had made a remarkable recovery. She was in good spirits and extremely appreciative of the assistance which I had provided to her during the night.
She cheerfully informed the consultant on duty that I would become a phenomenal doctor, and pulled me aside privately to tell me that she had a special treat for me!
Quite frankly, I have always had a soft spot for East Indian delicacies. After becoming hopelessly addicted to roti, doubles, and kurma, I was of course excited about this new promise of sweets.
She looked at me seriously and said, “You like Doulahin?”
Now having lived a somewhat sheltered life, and being of African descent, I had no idea what a Doulahin was—but I was sure that whatever it was it would be quite tasty.
I replied, ”Of course I like Doulahin.”
“You sure you want Doulahin?”
“Yes,” I said confidently, “ I sure I want Doulahin!”
“You sure you could handle a Doulahin?” She said winking at me.
“Wait a second,” I thought to myself, “was this woman questioning my intestinal fortitude?” I was sure that I could eat any amount of Doulahin that she could provide.
I squared my shoulders, straightened my posture, looked her straight in the eye and said:
“BRING THE DOULAHIN FOR ME!”
“Okay,” she said, “Come back this afternoon around visiting hours, and I will have a nice sweet Doulahin for you!”
I went though the day with great expectations. I merrily skipped lunch and waited patiently for the culinary ecstasy, that awaited my taste buds.
Before visiting time, I positioned myself strategically at her bed, and, as the bell rang announcing the influx of relatives, an attractive young lady approached us. My mouth watered in anticipation.
I stretched out my hand expecting a delectable treat, but the young lady only blushed and shook it, while smiling demurely.
“You like Doulahin?” My patient asked, expectantly.
By now I was thoroughly confused. It had become obvious to me that my interpretation of the word Doulahin may have been slightly incorrect.
I said “Of course I like Doulahin—Ahem—could you excuse me for one second please!” I rushed off to the nurses’ desk to ask for some clarification.
“Exactly what is a Doulahin?” I asked.
“Oh—that is the old name for an Indian bride.”
The nurse must have noticed my shocked expression because she then asked, “What is the matter?”
“Oops, I think that I just got married!”
I explained the scenario to her, and she roared with laughter. “Make sure that you get at least ten cows for the dowry!”
“Cows? What on earth am I going to do with cows? I don’t want to get married—at least not at present.”
“You didn’t sign any papers did you?” She asked. “No—Okay then you’re safe! Just try to talk your way out of it.”
I went back to my patient’s bedside and asked to see “Doulahin” in private. My patient was extremely excited about this development.
Before I could say anything to my “dearly beloved” she blurted out, “Don’t worry, I understand, Mum keeps trying to arrange a marriage for me. That is the old way. What I really want to do is to pursue a course in Business Management at UWI.”
I smiled at her with relief, waved goodbye to my patient, and ran off the ward in search of a large meal to satisfy my now ferocious appetite.
That was the last time that I accepted “sweets” from any patient.
About the Author: Dr. Kirby F Sebro is an alumnus of Antigua university.