Free Medical Advice For Family: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

crispydoc Uncategorized 5 Comments

I come from a driven immigrant family. During a recent podcast interview with the ever-gracious Dr. Nii Darko, we discussed the pressures we felt with being the first generation raised in our families' adopted country, and the responsibility we inherited to realize our parents' dreams of success.

Our professional careers, for better or worse, commonly become the validation our parents seek for the sacrifices they made to provide us with America's unique opportunities. Long story short: on one side of my family alone (including those who married into the family) I count five physicians in my generation.

This unexpected bounty of medical professionals has become an unlikely source of amusement for our family, thanks to a certain family member who has taken dining at the buffet of free medical advice and elevated it to a new level of absurdity.

A call from this family member proceeds by template, as if perversely adapted from a telemarketer's script:

Family member: I've felt terrible for the last 24 hours. [Goes on to describe symptoms of the common cold].

Me: Have you taken any medicines to see if  they help your symptoms?

Family member: No, I don't like to put chemicals in my body.

Me: I'm so sorry, that sounds dreadful. I genuinely hope you make a speedy recovery.

Family member: [Not about to let me off the hook that easily]. What do you think is the best way to treat my illness?

Me: Lots of fluids, tylenol, motrin and rest. I'd also see your doctor if you aren't better in a couple of days. [Feeling proud to have dodged a bullet.]

Family member: [Firing another bullet.] But I've already tried all of those remedies, and I'm not feeling any better.

Me: [What happened to not putting chemicals into your body?] It's still early in the course of your illness. If you are truly getting worse over the next several days, you'd want to see your doctor so they could make sure you aren't developing a condition like pneumonia, which is something I unfortunately am unable to diagnose by phone.

Family member: Would you recommend antibiotics?

Me: [So restricted chemicals are solicited by your body?] Not without being able to examine you in person to diagnose a condition that required them, like a pneumonia. [Feeling proud of my responsible stewardship of antibiotics].

Family member: That's funny.

Me: Why?

Family member: Because I spoke to your cousin so-and-so by phone yesterday two hours after my fever started and he called me in a Z-pack.

Me: I see.

Family member: I started to feel better twenty minutes after I took the first pill.

Me: Uh huh. [I tell her how nice it's been to catch up, and make an excuse to get off the phone.]

Sometimes providing free medical advice to family feels like being part of a circular firing squad.

Comments 5

  1. First of all, five physicians on one side of your family within a single generation? Wow.

    Second of all, I never liked giving medical advice to family members. I try to avoid (kind of like how I try to avoid looking like a doctor in public). Of course, if something is urgent I would say something. I would tell family that they should see their primary physician and remind them that primary care is not really my professional line of work. Unlike me, you probably can’t give that line because a lot of emergency medicine is primary care…

  2. I don’t treat people but I do call balls and strikes, when someones asthma needs an ER visit vs Urgent care or 10 minutes on a nebulizer, or a wrist needs an xray. My family knows it all so I just let them. My Dad who had a virtually inoperable aortic stenosis and interstitial lung disease where his nice pink alveoli were turning into leather probably from the drugs used to treat his AS (or occupational exposure), used to get some medical letter from Harvard which told him all about it. He would get a jar of natural PB drain off the peanut oil because everybody knows fat is bad and wonder why it tuned to concrete. Probably became concrete in the colon as well. He’d then sit down to a half gallon of ice cream. I have a sister and brother in law who read a book by some freakin cardiologist and now are metabolic guru’s full of shoulda, as in you shoulda not eat this or that. Makes going out to dinner a real drag. I always had to deal with Dr. Google when I was in practice, and then there’s the CNN doctors, Drew, Oz etc.

  3. LOL on that phone transcript. So if that family member already got advice and treated and feeling better why put you through all that?

    Fortunately I have not been asked too much for medical advice (I guess they don’t think a radiologist is a doctor/would be helpful anyway), although I have been asked what a radiology report (such as an MRI) means.

  4. I laughed at the ending. Great writing!

    There have been certain extended family members whose phone numbers I loaded into my phone JUST so I would see them on caller ID and NOT answer their phone calls for this very reason.

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