Monday, March 06, 2006

Skin Deep

"I need to listen to your lungs, in the back. May I just reach under your shirt?"

I have never once gotten a "no" to that question, to my continued amazement. We doctors are a trusted lot.

As I lifted up the cotton blouse edge and placed my stethoscope between bra strap and spine, I wondered... How many times have I lifted a T-shirt, a button down, a tank top or jacket? What different skin types have chilled to the touch of my scope? Youthful and taut, old and saggy, fat and pendulous, skinny and bony? Pale white, deep dark brown, copper, dusty, sunburned pink, covered with moles? How often have I felt them, cool and dry, clammy and pale, hot red and feverish?

Reminds me of the old ad jingle: "fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks...tall kids, short kids, even kids with chicken pox." But I digress.

I turn my hands over and gaze down at my lined palms. I imagine all the patients I have ever touched rising up out of my skin to stand in miniature on the curving softness. A tiny testimony to the bodies and lives I have been priveleged to know.


First 50 said...

This reminds me of Aeneas and Anchises by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, which I saw at the Borghese Gallery in Rome. It's white marble: three figures. A plump, smooth skinned child, a well-muscled and powerful young man, and an older man with sagging skin and soft looking flesh (all marble, I repeat). I was stunned by how sensuously real the skin on these three figures looked and think that Bernini's genius may have been that he could make marble look like flesh.

anafaran said...

Dr. Peg,
I am enjoying your new postings. You relate things in a compelling and credible style. It's like having a real good friend who's a doctor share their personal thoughts and that is really quite special. My experience is that it's very hard to get to know doctors. There's some kind of inpenetrable shield or barrier reef you have built around yourselves. Look but don't approach! Maybe you're justified in protecting yourself, afterall, by profession you must show discretion.
We patients need to hear more about doctors' personal experiences, to glimpse what off the wall people you might face in a real situations or, what off the wall situations you might face in real people.
You're peeling away the armor and I see you are human just like everyone else but you are equipped with scientific knowledge to heal and promote your patients' health.
Doctors in general are placed on a pedestal but I think that for this country to make greater strides in solving medical dilemmas, we need to hear one anothers' point of view more frequently. Maybe there would be fewer devastating lawsuits, who knows? Maybe I'm dreaming, but to dream is alright too.

PS I haven't forgotten my promise.

peg said...

Thanks, anafaran! You're very kind.

I totally agree that doctors should NOT be on a pedestal. We're people doing our jobs, just like anyone else. Gadzooks, I don't want any of my patients to think I'm perfect! I'd be constantly disappointing them! I do feel incredibly priveleged in my profession. To be entrusted with someone's suffering is a gift not to be taken lightly.


PS What promise? Clearly I'm not worried, cuz I forgot! Either that or I'm prematurely senile ;)

FL said...

Better to have forgotten my promise and receive a surprise in the post than to be on top of things and be disappointed because of my forgetfulness, wouldn't you agree (rhetorical question)?
By the way, beware of Greeks bearing gifts, haa-haa! Fortunately, I am Irish, so relax.

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