Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Give me malaria or give me death!

Goya knew a thing or two about medical education.
This haiku thing is really catching on.  Today a psychiatrist started speaking to me in verse.

He was a pretty odd guy but I really enjoyed his company.  The conversation began by him asking me, "What's your claim to fame?"  I claimed to have no claim to fame but gave him the short version of my life story ("I'm spending 3rd year in Hometown, I used to be an engineer").  He sat staring down at his desk, deep in thought. 

"1940", he said.  And he wrote "1940" on his pad of paper.  "Was the year I was born".

"1949", he said, and again he wrote "1949" on his pad of paper, and he drew a box around it.  And then another box around "1940".  "Was the year I first thought to become a psychiatrist".  He would leave long pauses

in the middle of his sentences

so his speech sounded

quite poetic.

He continued to tell me his life story, accompanied by little illustrations of what he was talking about.  For example, when he was talking about the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, he drew some little adrenal glands.  And when he used the phrase, "Following on from that", he would draw an arrow to a different part of the page and begin anew.  The whole page got filled up with a crazily complex flow diagram illustrating his professional life.

And much more!  For example, he asked me who won the first Nobel Prize related to psychiatry and I guessed that it was the guy who invented the frontal lobotomy, but he said it was much earlier than that.  Apparently it was given to a guy who was able to treat General Paralysis of the Insane, which was actually caused by cerebral syphilis, by deliberately giving people malaria.  The diagrams for that got a bit confusing, let me tell you.  We talked like that for more than 45 minutes because his first patient didn't turn up and he didn't realize that next patient was waiting already.

Anyway, the whole time there was this enormous blowfly careening drunkenly around the room, smacking into the light fittings and dipping distractingly in and out of our line of sight.  And that was when he spoke to me in haiku:
If we were at home
I would catch that fly and feed
It to my turtle.
It was really striking stuff.  So much so that at the end of the afternoon, after I'd seen him run through his list of patients and it was time to go to home, I thanked him for his time and said, "I hope you catch lots of flies for your turtle".  He let out a great bark of a laugh, like a seal, and waved me out the door.

I think I want to be a psychiatrist.


Anonymous said...

Finally you've come to realise what we have all known all along.

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed he could just come out with that. I need to count my syllables out.

MAB said...

Engaging indeed. Great writing PTR. I can only imagine what it must've been like to be there in person