- Barry M Schyma, specialist trainee year 3, anaesthesia and critical care1,
- Robin Kerr, GP specialist trainee year 32,
- Shirjel Alam, cardiology research fellow3
- 1Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH16 4SA, UK
- 2Eastfield Medical Practice, Penicuik EH26 8EZ, UK (email@example.com)
- 3University of Edinburgh, Medical School, Edinburgh EH8 9AG (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Correspondence to: B M Schyma
- Accepted 8 September 2011
We are often told that experiencing illness will make us better doctors. Perhaps one of the more extreme examples of this is being intubated and sedated in the intensive care unit five weeks before starting work there.
I was in the second month of my foundation year 1. I had been sent home on two consecutive days for vomiting on the ward, and when I returned colleagues mentioned that I had lost weight. As I struggled to clerk a patient for an elective finger operation, he commented, “I think that you are more unwell than I am, doctor.” The rigors continued through that day, and I was sent home again in blissful ignorance of the severity of my condition.
I continued to feel dreadful, became anuric, and was admitted to our hospital’s medical assessment unit. A medical student took my history, performed an examination with an incredibly detailed neurological component, and presented a diagnosis of viral gastroenteritis. I was beginning to become concerned, but the medical team reassured me that my high C reactive protein and thrombocytopenia were not significant. I was aware that I was due to rotate through this unit and did not question that no qualified clinician had examined me. These doctors were my seniors, and I did not want a reputation as a paranoid hypochondriac before my first ward round there. I was discharged the next morning.
The fever got worse. I had not eaten in days, continued to rigor, and was beginning to hallucinate. I was due to fly to India for my brother’s wedding when I saw my general …