Monday, May 19, 2008

Medical Mystery: Gut-Wrenching

Came across an interesting medical mystery entitled Gut-Wrenching last week:

The doctor found his 20 year-old son in the bathroom sprawled over the toilet. “Not again?” he asked gently. The young man nodded, tears bright in his eyes, as he rose slowly to his feet. He pressed his hand deeply into his own abdomen, as if holding something in place. “It’s getting worse.”

The father was overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness. “Get dressed,” he told his son suddenly. If they rushed to the hospital, maybe they would be lucky enough to catch whatever was causing this pain on an X-ray. The young man had already been imaged a half-dozen times, but never during an attack. But a short time later, as they walked down a quiet hospital hallway, he turned to his father. “I’m sorry, Dad,” he said. “The pain is gone.” As it had so often in the past, the attack ended the way it started — suddenly. The X-ray was normal.

The young man’s father, a gastroenterologist, had been trying to figure out the cause of these terrible episodes for months. He was tormented by the possibility that he might have missed something. It was, he thought, time to send his son to another doctor, and so he called an old friend and internist, Andrew Israel.

Keep reading the article to see how the mystery unfolds. The irony of a gastroenterologist being unable to diagnose his own son's GI problem is laced throughout the piece. I cannot imagine anything more frustrating, that feeling of being helpless. As a medical student, I have some mild feeling like that everyday, but I soldier on with the faith that after all these years of training, I'll have a solid knowledge base and never be confused or lost again. Sadly, reality has other plans. It is a sobering realization that even with our collective millenia of medical experience, such mysteries still abound.

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