Friday, June 5, 2009

Pediatrician AND Ghostbuster

Last week in clinic I had possibly the strangest patient encounter ever.  I looked at my computer and it said, "7 year old with sinus pain".  I thought to myself, "This will be easy.  I'll take a look at her sinuses, maybe get a CT, maybe do antibiotics, and send her on her way."  

Not the case.  This little girl walks into my office with her parents, mom looking very concerned.  I start off by saying, "So, your daughter is here for sinus pain?"  Mom replies by saying, "No, that's not why she's here.  My daughter has been seeing ghosts."

Okay, stop.  Am I a pediatrician or a ghostbuster?

After I got over my initial shock, I began my interview.  I asked the patient to tell me about the ghosts.  She said they are black, white, all different colors; some look like people.  She sees them at home, school, everywhere.  I was a little worried to ask her if she saw them there in my office... I was afraid she'd say, "Yes, in fact there's one right next to you."  Then I asked her if the ghosts talk to her.  "No.  But they scratch me sometimes."  Mom piped in and said, "Yes, I've seen the scratches."  Then mom launched into a story about how she had gotten attacked by a ghost several years ago.  That's when I started to become skeptical.  Was this mom feeding into this child's "visions"?  Was mom psychologically in the state of mind to make medical decisions for this child?  I told her as respectfully as I could, "Ma'am, I'm sorry your daughter is seeing these frightening images, and I wish there were something I could do for you, but I'm really not trained to handle this.  I am here to rule out any MEDICAL causes for her hallucinations."  Oh, that did not go over well.  The little girl's mom started getting very heated up, exclaiming "I know my daughter is seeing ghosts.  There's nothing wrong with her medically.  She is seeing ghosts, like that little boy in The Sixth Sense.  I'm afraid they're going to start hurting her.  You have to do something to help us."  I don't know what she wanted me to do - perform an exorcism???  I calmly told her, "I'm very sorry she is so upset and scared.  I will try to find someone who is trained to help you."  That's when I called the psychiatrist.  He was very helpful and agreed to see my patient the very next week (usually not that fast).  Mom was okay with that, and after 20 minutes discussing ghosts, I said goodbye to this strange family.

It was definitely an interesting appointment, and worth writing about so I can laugh about it later.  But I do hope this girl finds some help.  She was sweet.  And who knows, maybe she IS seeing ghosts.  Yikes!!

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