My Most Memorable Day in the Office: The Day My Mother Became a Saint
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Neil Baum, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Urology, Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, LA
Author, Marketing Your Clinical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically, Jones Bartlett Publishers
It was 1976 and I had just started my solo practice. I employed only a receptionist and a nurse. My nurse was absent because of an illness and I asked my middle-aged mother to come and serve as my chaperone for the afternoon.
The first patient I had that day was a young lady, and I asked her to give a urine specimen and place it in the turnstile in the restroom. My mother, wearing a lab coat that gave her a medical look, escorted the lady to the examination room. I walked by the restroom and saw the specimen container on the back of the toilet, and as I went to take a phone call, I asked my mother to move the specimen to the lab so that I could run it through the centrifuge and prepare to examine it under the microscope. My mother said, “Neil, I changed your diaper and I allowed you to pee on me when you were an infant, but I will not touch someone else’s urine specimen. Remember Neil, you chose this specialty—not me!” I laughed and responded, “Okay,” and moved the specimen container myself.
I then met with the patient, took her history, and was ready to perform the physical examination. I gave the patient a paper gown and I stepped out of the room and told her that I would get the “nurse” and return to the room for the examination. The patient was placed in the stirrups on the examination table as the “nurse” stayed by her side and held her hand. I was at the end of the table near the patient’s leg and I inserted the speculum. The patient gave a small grunt of discomfort as I told her that the hardest part of the examination was nearly over. Just a few seconds later, the patient said, “Is she okay?” Since the gown obscured my peripheral vision between the patient’s legs, I asked, “Who are you talking about?” The patient said, “Your nurse—she ’s on the floor!” I peeked around the patient to find that my mother had fainted and was lying on the floor. I removed the speculum and helped my mother to her feet and escorted her out of the room. My mother was very embarrassed as she adjusted her hair and went to the front desk. I reassured the patient that the “nurse” was okay and didn’t provide any further explanation. My mother was so uncomfortable functioning as a nurse but did whatever was necessary to help her son. Kind of miraculous!
I had a discussion with the patient about her treatment and walked her to the front desk, where my mother had prepared the bill and was ready to collect her payment!
I thought that I’d never see that patient again, but interestingly enough, she sent two of her friends to see me, both of whom asked, “Where is the nurse who fainted?” I know that I will never forget that day that my Jewish mother, Sara Baum, became a Jewish Saint!