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 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 exam 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 and I would run it through the centrifuge and prepare the specimen to examine 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!” Okay, I laughed and moved the specimen container myself.
I then met with the patient, took her history, and was ready to perform the physical exam. 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 exam. The patient was placed in the stirrups on the exam table as the “nurse” stayed by her side and held her hand. I was at the end of the table between the patient’s leg and I inserted the speculum. The patient gave a small, barely audible sigh of discomfort as I told her that the hardest part of the exam was nearly over. Just a few seconds later, the patient said, “Is she okay?” I remained between the patients leg with the gown obscuring my peripheral vision and asked, “Who are you talking about?” The patient said, “Your nurse. She’s on the floor!” I peeked around the patient’s leg 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 and was adjusting her hair and went to the front desk. I reassured the patient that the “nurse” was okay and didn’t provide any further explanation.
I had a discussion with the patient about her treatment and walked her to the 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 who all asked where was the “nurse who fainted”? I know I will never forget that day that my Jewish mother, Sara Baum, became a Jewish Saint.
Neil Baum is a urologist at Touro Infirmary and author of Marketing Your Clinical Practices: Ethically, Effectively, Economically. He can be reached at his self-titled site, Neil Baum, MD, or on Facebook and Twitter.