The other day in school, we had to combine all parts of the patient exam that we learned throughout the year, minus the musculoskeletal portion, into a complete patient physical examination. This included examining the head and neck, cranial nerve function, chest/back (heart, lungs, kidneys, etc), and abdomen (liver, spleen, etc).
I was asked to stay by the physician after everyone had left.
"Your style of interviewing patients is very good. And I know you know your stuff. But the way you examine the patient seems awkward and you can't do certain things. It's not your fault, of course. But you will fail if you can't do things different."
My heart sunk. I swallowed hard and forced a smile. “I understand,” I responded. This was not what I wanted to hear. I started crossing off more specialties that I would not be able to do.
“Not all patients will be as compliant and will be able to move to make things easier for you. And this will not cut it during the graded exam, and they will fail you.”
I was then extended an offer to come in for additional practice. I told her I was busy during the week with studying but that I could come in on Saturdays. She agreed to come on the Saturdays she is free to help me. I am very grateful for her kind offer. Also, if any of my classmates are reading this and are able to study at the building on Saturdays or Sundays, I would greatly appreciate it you could let me know and then spare 15-20 minutes letting me practice on you so I can get used to people of varying heights. Well, that goes for any of my friends in Athens, not just my classmates.
I’ve thought about this many times before but have only mentioned it to a few people (because I think people will think I'm weak): I envy those who are able to perform the actions they want with ease. I envy those who are able to reach over or forward with both hands without fear of falling forward. You see, my injury level is such that I also lack any trunk stability. My best friends remember how initially I was so incredibly scared to move even slightly while in therapy. With every movement on the mat, I thought I would fall off and crack my head open on the tiles. Can’t tell, can you? Like riding a bicycle, I forced my mind and body to retrain and learn how to balance myself without falling over. I was initially told that I needed to wear a chest strap at all times, but I disregarded that advice from therapists, like lots of other cautions they gave me. I’d still be at home with my parents if I listened to everything everyone ever told me.
When I see people being able to examine someone using both hands without stabilizing themselves with one hand and not worrying about falling over, I secretly wish they knew how lucky they were.
If you can reach both hands forward, perhaps to hug your mother or your best friend, consider yourself truly blessed.