Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
“It’s the end of the world! The end is here!” shouted the unit clerk as she pulled out clumps of her hair and rocked in her chair. This sort of thing is normal for a unit clerk so I wasn’t too alarmed until I saw the nurses tearing their scrubs and smearing ashes on their faces. The respiratory therapist pushed a vat of Koolaid towards the back and everywhere I looked there was wailing and gnashing of teeth. When I asked what was wrong the charge nurse, who had changed into sackcloth scrubs, pointed in horror to the “cubby.”
“He’s in there, Panda. Oh the humanity! It’s past 5PM! Surely the horsemen are abroad!”
Cautiously I made my way to the cubby (a little alcove where admitting physicians sit to do their paperwork) and was surprised to see a pleasant-looking fellow sitting at the computer studying lab values. But there was something odd about him. His white coat was not just white but pristine. It glowed under the fluorescent lights and the starched creases on the sleeves crackled as he moved his arm. His scrubs, too, were of a strange color the likes of which I had never seen and they appeared new or so clean that he must have been an ethereal phantom passing unsoiled among his ghostly patients. A shiny, electronic stethoscope with the price tag still on as if it had never been used glinted like burnished bronze from his pocket.
“Hi,” he said, turning from the screen, “I’m Dr. Jones, one of the PM&R residents. I’m almost done admitting one of my patients if you need the computer.”
And I was afraid.
But as I am a good (if sometimes wayward) son of my church and made of sterner stuff than the medical students outside in the hall cowering in the corners in the fetal position, I confronted this impossible creature.
“Spirit,” I said, “whether you come as a dark portent of the end times or whether you are merely a phantasm is it not true that Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation is a specialty which treats a wide range of problems from sore shoulders to spinal cord injuries as part of a multidisciplinary team and whose particular focus is planning and implementing physical and occupational therapy to alleviate these conditions?”
“This is so,” intoned the so-called Dr. Jones.
“And is it not true,” I continued, “that you are sometimes called Physiatrists and part of your dark art is to predict the long term consequences of muskuloskeletal injuries and to develop treatment strategies to alleviate these?”
“In this also you are correct,” said Dr. Jones quietly but with obvious menace.
“Is this not the specialty that deals with prosthetics? With orthotics?” I asked, “Is this also not true? Confess, spirit!”
“All of those things of which you speak are correct,” said the corporeal representation of the entity known as Dr. Jones, “But know you that my dominion extends also to movement disorders, muscle pain syndromes, and even unto manipulative medicine in whose service I have made a dark covenant with osteopathic physicians among whom my name is Legion.”
“But spirit, how can this be?” I was perplexed. “The hour is late. The sun sets behind the hills and you, a PM&R resident yet labor in our department, a department whose walls have never seen the likes of you in the morning much less after normal working hours. Is it not written that a PM&R resident knows not the lethargy of the early morning hour nor does he keep the watches of the night (or the late afternoon for that matter)? Does not your kind slumber on the weekends and know not the sting of call or long hours? How can these strange signs be ascribed to anything else but the apocalypse?”
“Oh, don’t worry,” laughed Dr. Jones, “This is the first patient I’ve admitted in two years. But I’m done so if you’ll excuse me…”
And then he was gone.
We still talk about that day when hell froze over.