Please, Not in the Waiting Room!

Willie Morrison plodded through the waiting room and informed my new receptionist he needed to be seen right away for a diabetic ulcer on his leg. Since Willie had arrived thirty minutes early, the receptionist asked him to take a seat. But instead of sitting down, Willie wandered around the waiting room, at times staring into space or at a particular patient, and at times, smacking and licking his lips in a noisy, exaggerated fashion. Then, he insisted he could smell burning rubber and asked the other patients if they could smell it as well. "I don't smell anything," the woman sitting next to him said, pulling as far away from him as possible.

Suddenly, Willie unlatched his belt, unzipped his pant's zipper, and pulled his pants clear down to his toes. There he stood in the waiting room, clad only in his Fruit of the Loom undies as though it were the most natural thing in the world. Perhaps if he'd had a physique like Tom Cruise instead of Santa Claus, the patients in the waiting room would have been less upset, but I doubt it.

Someone came up to the front desk and informed the receptionist of Willie's unsettling behavior. He pointed at our new underwear model and said, "I just thought you should know."

My receptionist's eyes bulged in horror. She dashed out to the waiting room. "Mr Morrison! What are you doing? You can't undress right here in the waiting room."

Somewhat trance-like, he responded, "Dr. Burbank needs to see this leg ulcer." He pointed at a denuded spot on his shin.

"But this is a public waiting room," she insisted. "We can't have patients out here in their underwear."

"Why not? Since she usually runs behind schedule, I figured I could save her some time by having my pants already off."

My receptionist tried not to panic as sweat poured from her brow. By now, she'd figured out something was off with this patient; she wasn't going to waste more time trying to reason with him."Let's get you back to an exam room," she said, trying to usher him out of the waiting room ASAP. The two patients ahead of him on the schedule gladly volunteered to let him go ahead---anything to get him out of the waiting room!

"But I'd rather see Dr. Burbank out here," he insisted. "It ain't as small as them exam rooms."

Now desperate, my receptionist responded, "HIPAA law doesn't allow doctors to examine patients in their underwear in front of other patients in the waiting room. It's illegal. I'll have to bring you back to an exam room." (In fact, HIPAA law makes no specific mention about examining patients clad only in underwear in the waiting room, but it sounded good!)

She pulled up his pants and quickly ushered him back to an exam room.

Willie is not a pervert---he was displaying the classic signs and symptoms of complex partial seizures, or temporal lobe epilepsy, a condition which makes patients do bizarre behaviors, such as lip smacking, staring, and wandering around as though sleepwalking. Deja vu, visual and smell hallucinations are common. Patients are often argumentative or combative during attacks. After the seizure is over, patients have no recollection whatsoever of what they said or did.

Poor Willie has engaged in other strange behaviors over the years. One time, he wandered around a restaurant stabbing his fork into the meatballs or noodles of complete strangers, sampling their entrees and declaring the food delicious. Needless to say, the diners were aghast and complained to the waitress. During his seizure, he saw nothing wrong with nibbling from the plates of strangers, and he even argued with the waitress. "I just want to see if what they ordered was any good, so I'd know whether to order it in the future." Since he had no memory of his behavior once the seizure wore off, he only learned about his dreadful manners when he came out of his seizure and the manager threatened to call the police if he didn't quit eating off the plates of the other diners.

Willie works as a cashier in a grocery store. During one seizure, while trying to make change from a twenty dollar bill, Willie just stuffed the twenty dollar bill into his own pants pocket and told the customer he needed the money more than the store. Meanwhile, the customer was never given his change! When the customer complained, it was discovered Willie was having one a seizure. (His boss was acquainted enough with Willie's odd behaviors and tell-tale lip-smacking, he knew his long-term employee was not a thief but was having a seizure.) Since Willie's spells are rare, (usually if he has forgotten to take a dose of his seizure drug) his boss puts up with his occasional attacks since he is otherwise an excellent employee.

To his credit, Willie has not allowed epilepsy to ruin his life. While I would be mortified to discover I'd wandered around the waiting room of a doctor's office in my underwear or stabbed other diner's chicken nuggets right off their plates, Willie maintains a wonderful attitude. After we informed him of his "tight-whitey" misadventure, he shook his head and roared with laughter. "Wait 'til Janelle (his wife) hears about this."