You shouldn't have!

Patients bestow gifts on me and my staff as a token of their appreciation. Wonderful, thoughtful gifts. One patient hand-crocheted a soft, blue receiving blanket when my son was born. Several have whipped up gourmet meals as a lunch treat (and welcome diversion from my boring carton of yogurt.) I've received a hand- designed tote bag made from neck-ties, handmade necklaces, silk scarves from Iraq, pots of impossible-to-find coleus, a rare canary-yellow orchid, and a hand-carved wooden salad bowl. At Christmastime, the office smells like a bakery, thanks to all the goodies patients concoct for us. In the summer, we gorge on plump, juicy tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers that patients donate to us. It blows me away how generous my patients are considering I've forgotten my best friend's birthday for ten years running. A few gifts weren't as nice. Good ol' Bob offered me one of his cats and a floor-to-ceiling plastic "letter holder"  he'd purchased at a yard sale only to discover it was too tall for his trailer. "It  has a few cracks but it's still usable,"  he said. I declined both gifts, especially when I learned the cat needed a urologist --  it piddled all over his trailer! And I wouldn't want my cracked, plastic letter holder to smell like a dirty cat box. . .

Of course, my most "memerable" gift was the eight-foot long wooden wall hanging (complete with pictures of his daughters as young girls in their pink tutus. See "A Gift to Remember" in the January archives for further details on this unusual gift.)

One woman graced me with the videotape of her gall bladder surgery. She even had the movie all doodied up in a gift bag complete with tissue paper and ribbons. "You'll love watching this since you're a medical person."

Seriously? Forget Downton Abbey. Forget Pride and Prejudice. Just sit me down with a big bowl of popcorn and . . . a gall bladder surgery? How weird does this lady think I am?  News flash: even nerdy doctors don't watch gall bladder surgeries for Friday night entertainment! Plus, if I liked blood and gore, I would have become a Texas chain saw murderer or. . . a surgeon. (We internists accuse surgeons of being "butchers," and surgeons accuse  us internists of sitting around contemplating our navels when we could be cutting something out and saving lives. You know what they say: "Specialists learn more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing. General practitioners know less and less about more and more until they know nothing about everything.")

Okay, I've digressed from discussing gifts. . .

The other gift I will never forget is an ornate Christmas vest from Dillard's, complete with matching turtleneck and  darling snowman earrings. This was an expensive gift for a woman living on a disablility income. I was touched she valued my doctoring enough to purchase such a pricey gift. As I held up the adorable snowman vest, I "oohed and ahhed" and said, "You shouldn't have."

Turns out, she didn't. She stole it! Unbeknownst to me, my patient was a kleptomaniac who was caught red-handed hawking clothes from Dillards. I found out about it because she called me several months later wanting an official letter claiming her anti-depressant medication "made" her steal. Right! Can I claim my Vitamin D supplement just "made" me devour a bowl of French Silk ice cream?