Under My Skin

Lost (and Found) Patients


My office had an unofficial record that stood for years – The Most Lost Patients. (The Guinness World Records never includes this one.) But records are made to be broken.

A long time ago, a woman came in late one afternoon. Her responses seemed somehow off, until she brightened and said, "Wait, you’re not Dr. Brownton!"

I checked the name on my lab coat. "You’re right," I said. "I’m not. Dr. Brownton is across the street and down a block to the left."

"That explains why you took me early," she said. "I’m going to come to you from now on."

But she didn’t. She probably set out for my office and ended up by mistake back at Dr. Brownton’s office, across the street and down a block.

That record stood long and untouchable until 3 years ago, when a man showed up with a complaint of, "I want Lasik surgery."

"But I’m a dermatologist," I observed.

"Doesn’t the sign on your door say Boston Eye Associates?" he replied.

I thought to myself, "Before you get Lasik, you might look into spectacles." Instead, I told him that Boston Eye Associates was five floors up. I also noted that he had periocular eczema and prescribed accordingly. Later, I learned from my ophthalmology neighbors, that he never went through with the Lasik. So, in a sense, he had come to the right place after all, though for the wrong reasons.

That record, unassailable as it seemed, stood for just 3 years, until last week, when a man came with an even more curious complaint: "I have a high PSA." There followed some dialogue I wanted to channel to Eugene Ionesco, who could have used it.

Me: Are you sure you’re at the right doctor?

Man: I have a high PSA.

Me: But I’m a skin doctor.

Man: Dr. Wong asked me to visit you.

Me: I’m sure he did, but PSA refers to the prostate. You need a urologist.

Man: (checking referral note) It says your name right here.

Me: Do you have a problem on your skin?

Man: (brightens, rolling up left pant leg) Yes!

Me: (Points to Man’s shin) You have eczema, right there, see? (Man nods.) I will give you a cream for it. (Hands Man prescription.)

Man: (Takes prescription.) Thank you.

Me: You should call Dr. Wong to ask which doctor he wants you to see about the PSA.

Man: I will! Thank you! (Lights fade to black. Curtain.)

I can’t even imagine what’s going to top that. (A woman here for her 6-month ultrasound?) But records are made to be broken. After the Babe, eventually there was Maris, and then the Steroid Boys.

So who knows? Maybe I’ll get a TV series some day, "Lost: Dermatology Edition."

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