love hospital stories. And since many of our friends are medical professionals, you would think I would have unlimited access to some of the weirdest tales from the secret world of medicine. Unfortunately, when a group of doctors or nurses gather round our dinning room table they usually share diagnostic and treatment stories — boring, or hospital politics — mind-numbingly boring. They are surprisingly tight lipped when it comes to recounting anything that the rest of us — non-medical professionals — might find interesting.
On rare occasions, with the right encouragement and enough wine, one of our friends might tell a really weird tale or two. Of course, most of these stories usually have some sexual element. Apart from the “Yuk factor,” these hospital tales raise some interesting questions.
In the emergency room, patients commonly arrive in a semi-mobile condition and their pants must be removed or cut off by the medical staff. My question, of course, is so some people arrive wearing really weird underwear? I am told that its so common for a patient to arrive wearing a leopard or snake print thong, that attending nurses and doctors hardly even take notice.
In spite of this, most men seem to feel they are required to explain their choice of undergarments and their explanation is always the same. They were staying at a friend’s house, needed to borrow some clean underwear and this is what their friend lent them. My own feeling is that underwear is best not borrowed or lent. But I’m still left with the question, is “friend” the correct term for a guy who gives you his leopard print thong to wear?
You’ve probably already heard the urban myth about the man who became amorous with the vacuum cleaner. I’ve heard it many times from many people, all of whom claim it is true because it happened to a friend of a friend of theirs.
Recently, my friend, who works in the emergency ward in one of Milan’s largest hospitals, told me the same story with a twist. It seems that a young man tried to have sex with the vacuum cleaner but got stuck. When his this happened, he panicked. Of course, he was in no emotional or physical condition to drive to the emergency room and calling a taxi might have proven a little awkward. Not knowing what else to do, he got his mother-in-law, who lives next door, to drive him in. I can’t help but wonder, did he phone first or just pop over wearing the vacuum cleaner on his loins?
Another story comes from two other friends of mine who often work night shift in emergency. A man arrived whose penis was badly cut and bleeding. The patient said he was with a prostitute and she had bit him. They disinfected, stitched and bandaged him up, then sent him on his way, or so they thought. Five minutes later he reappeared explaining to them that he had just called his wife and he wanted them to support his story when she arrived. My friends told him that whatever happened was between him and his wife and that he’d have to explain to her on his own. He pleaded but they refused.
When his wife arrived they overheard him explaining to her that he had accidentally slammed his penis in the car door, leaving us all with the pressing question of whether automotive manufacturers should be required by law to put safety stickers on cars doors.
But my favorite hospital story comes from my husband, Alberto. He had an intern train with him for a few months. She was a bright young doctor from Sicily and she was eager to learn. One morning while doing rounds, Alberto observed that a patient with a catheter was suffering from a common problem in which the foreskin, if too tight, can slip below the head of the penis and cut off the blood supply. This can be very painful and dangerous if not treated immediately.
Alberto performed a simple technique, which is about as complicated as a quick flick, to release the foreskin, and the patient was fine. Afterwards, the young doctor asked Alberto to teach her how to perform this basic medical maneuver, something she should have been taught in medical school.
Months later, she was working in another Milan hospital doing rounds with the nurse, when she came across a patient with a catheter who was diagnosed as suffering from the same problem. Confident in her newly acquired skills, she applied the technique. Nothing happened. She tried again with a more vigorous flick. Still, nothing happened. By the third try the nurse, inquired what she was attempting to do. She explained the procedure to the nurse. The nurse responded, “But doctor, are you aware that the patient is circumcised?”
But it seems to me these stories also come with lessons. First, when your mother told you to always wear clean underwear to the doctors’, she was not referring to leopard prints thongs, either your own or borrowed ones. Second, never trust the vacuum cleaner not to kiss and tell. Third, any man who is bitten by a prostitute probably did something to deserve it. Fourth, not all treatment is lifesaving but be confident that medical professionals always know what they are doing. And finally, there’s very little that a medical staff hasn’t already seen, so unless you are specifically asked, its probably best not to volunteer an explanation.