Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Stethoscope's Tale

Symbols have meaning. Like the police officer's shiny badge. Like the fireman's helmet. Like the Marine's dog tags. Each conveys a certain meaning attached to it, a certain indefinable sense of self and identity.

Deep thoughts!
Damn.. where did I leave my stethoscope now?

Like the legendary Rod of Asclepius and the ubiquitous white coat, the stethoscope has long been intimately associated with the medical profession. Shockingly enough, I've had mine for close to a decade. Has it actually been that long? I just recounted the years and it's pretty close ( and I am seriously aging, folks ).

Not long after we entered medical school, the Littman sales team arrived with their boxes of equipment and their usual spiel - which none of us actually bothered to listen since it was obvious that we'd buy it all anyway. After all which doctor ever lived without a swinging stethoscope? When the goods arrived, the hyper-enthusiastic medical students swarmed over them like crazy bees to precious honey and it took a while before I even got mine, after stepping on a few toes and breaking a few wrists.

Some of the wannabe doctors played around with it, perhaps trying it on for size, but I didn't touch mine till I reached the relative privacy of my dorm room. It was only then that I took it out of the box and stared at myself - and that shiny new symbol - in the mirror with some faint surprise. Hell, made it almost official that I really was going to become a doctor. Goodness gracious. Before that it was all dull, dry lectures and equally boring textbooks so the very novel idea hadn't really sunk in before. Me a doctor? You gotta be fucking kidding me!

Reading my blog, you'd expect my stethoscope to be a flashy gay pink with gold sequins and red feathers but it's actually a boring conservative navy blue. Never felt any real need to stand out in the crowd here since my frequent uncharacteristically loud rants already do more than enough to gain attention.

Still, the faithful thing's been with me for a while. Can almost recall every little sha la la la and every dub dub dub that it gifted me with. Loyally stuck with me through the unimaginable horrors of medical school to the brief nightmarish episode of living hell that we call housemanship. Even when I first returned to my hometown, it came along with me strapped to my travelling bag.

Even had it along during a trying Chinese New Year when I had to drag it out to use on an ailing neighbour who had developed acute pulmonary oedema throughout the night. And that one time I had to attend to a roadside injury when I was flagged down by the paramedics. Till recently actually when I started functioning partly without my own stethoscope since we had several on hand at work ( don't even ask me about ear infections ). Still, it was placed carefully in my backpack that I carry to work.

Then today I took a curious look while unpacking and realized that the diaphragm was hanging loosely from the stethoscope, flailing about like a pathetically broken limb. Thought of falling to the ground, raising my hands to the heavens and singing an aria to my devastating loss but I settled for a single wail, pregnant with feeling. Isn't it funny how we gain sentimental attachments to the oddest things?

It would be simple enough to do a little botched up DIY job with plaster and cast but I think it's time to retire the faithful old soldier. Place it up amongst my precious mementoes in the glass teak cabinet.

What the hell. Maybe my next one would be fuchsia with gold sequins. Wonder whether Littman makes those.

20 comments:

THE HONOURABLE SHAH said...

fuchsia and gold sequins? oh no!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! btw, how long have u been working, uh?

ash said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ash said...

hmm.. i can't say that I'm attached to anything yet. There's no 'tool' in the industry that I can get attached to lah, but i need to have a pen around me. any pen. preferably 0.4 point or less. or pencil oso can lah. to draw. doodle. or whatever. pen and paper. If no paper, skin. or table or wall. =)

*sry, wanted to add something to the original post*

Glass teak cabinet? You're kidding, aren't you?

savante said...

Not gonna reveal my old age! You gotta count the years, shah!

Ash, ummm... I do have tons of glass cabinets :P

nyonyapenang said...

perhaps, fuchsia and plastered with svaroski (soli, dunno how to spell) crystals, like those handphones.

ash said...

what "Not gonna reveal my old age!" ?

it's in your profile lah. =,=

Shigeki said...

Your post made me start wondering. How often do you replace your stethoscope? I guess it should last longer or do you replace it often? I've never asked.... but it got me very curious.

Jay said...

You can always just use your long meat stethoscope.

QuaVadis said...

This post reminded me when I gave Aly his first stethoscope after completing his first sem in med school (was suprised he graduated at all, but it shows that partying, drinking and err..never mind bout that, never seem to be a problem if you're committed to graduate from Med School.

Litman has rather limited choice of stethoscope, maybe u can ask them custom make one for u :P

Annie said...

When required to take blood pressure in a clinic, I wore a stethoscope and felt the force of power. With it also came responsibility. Patients gave you a certain degree of trust in that you knew what you were doing. Now, that's scary.

I like the question about replacing the scope. One thing nurse here have noticed is that doctors don't tend to CLEAN the diaphragm party thingy after using it on a patient. ICK!

So, are we all invited to the wake? Will there be a viewing? and a proper buriel? or casing?

Ban said...

Awww. *sad smile* Fix it up, save it for a kid one day. Failing that, Calvin will do.

Colin said...

Like Jay said, can u show us a pic of your thick meat stethoscope? Pretty please, doctor with sugar on top?

William said...

A question: Are stethoscopes sanitized? Definitely keep the old one for posterity and moments of nostalgia. And you and Calvin can go stethoscope shopping instead of IKEA this weekend.

In my line of work, there's nothing to get attached to really. No favourite mouse or keyboard. Perhaps my harddisk, only if my favourite MP3s and porn are on it. :D.

THE HONOURABLE SHAH said...

thanks for backing me up, ash! hehe...

envy said...

I almost cried...Just kidding but your post sounded very emotion filled...I think we give meannings to things...And your first stethoscope desirves it all...You are true to your things Doc...you seem like a devoted guy...Frame it...I'm sure it carries lots of souvenirs...

nv

hrugaar said...

I have folders (binders) in which I keep background stuff for the world of my books and game campaigns. They're getting old and tatty now, but the thought of replacing them with new folders just seems wrong.

We have plenty of 'tools' where I work, but if I tried to get my hands on them I'd be up on disciplinary charges, heh. ;oP

xavier said...

now this is a heart warming sentimental bedside story.

:)

xavier

ikanbilis said...

i can think that Dr P is around his 30's!! and i agree with nyonya's idea of the swarovski crystals! add some tiffany & co for the metal! *giggles*

what a weird suggestion. that reminds me, that i have 3 med in the family. a neurologist uncle (was in sydney, now USM Kelantan) and his wife's a psychiatrist in Tanjung Rambutan(no joke) while his brother is a pilot with general physician wife in USJ.

Amazingly they go holiday with their medical kit. so i guess its just great to carry one everywhere you go eh? but how about clubbing and partying? lol

joshua said...

me thinks me wanna get an orange or raspberry one... lolx

to suit my fabulousness lor...

Will said...

I'd love to see a photo of you wearing your stethoscope. And nothing else, of course.