I had great hopes that my daughter, Eliza, would one day follow me into medical school. As a little girl, she'd boast that when she grew up she'd become a doctor, just like her Mommy. Until the fateful day when she was nine and had to spend a few hours in my office because my husband had a music gig and couldn't watch her. Bored, she milled around the office inspecting my equipment. Between patient charts, I ran an EKG on her and explained what the tracing said about her heart. We tested her hearing and vision, height and weight. I banged on her knees with a reflex hammer and she giggled when her knee shot forward. Then she pulled out a Hemoccult card from an exam table drawer and asked me what it was. I explained it was a test for colon cancer.
She stared at the card and then at me. "How does it work?"
"You smear a little pooh-pooh on this little square and then you drop three drops of this developer solution onto the square." I pulled up the flap and showed her where the stool was smeared and where the solution was dribbled. "If it turns bright blue, it means the patient is passing blood and that can be a warning sign for cancer."
Her brow furrowed as she stared at the card. "But how does the pooh-pooh get onto the little square?"
Never one to lie or sugar-coat, I said, "Well, Mommy has to stick her finger up the patient's bottom and then smears the pooh-pooh onto the the little square."
"You stick your finger up people's butts?" Complete horror and disgust etched her face. "Eeewww!!!"
"I wear a glove."
When she found out rectal exams were a routine part of my day, she NEVER again mentioned becoming a doctor. In fact, she now wanted to feed baby monkeys in Africa. Her newest career ambition? To work for the State Department in International Relations in the Middle East. (In other words, as far away from Mom's Hemoccult cards and exam rooms as possible!)
Words of advice to my fellow physicians hoping their child might someday enter medical school: Hide your Hemoccult cards!