Monday, May 11, 2009

the leroy-burnell syndrome

when we were in medical school as with all medical students we were bombarded with many new words. not the least of these were the myriad of syndromes. and each syndrome had symptoms that overlapped with pretty much every other syndrome. it was one large conglomeration of new words all mixed together.

but there were a few other things we noticed. firstly every syndrome worth its salt had a double barrelled name with a hyphen in between. exotic sounding names worked better than simple names like mark or john. also the more symptoms associated with a syndrome the better the syndrome was.

and thus we invented the leroy-burnell syndrome. the name was perfect. and seeing that we used it to explain any conglomeration of symptoms that we could not otherwise bring to a diagnosis, any symptom known to man could be attributed to our neologistic syndrome. (if only house md had known about this syndrome the episodes would all be half the length.) if we had no idea about a patient, my clinical partner would lean across and say,
"this is a classical case of leroy-burnell syndrome." and doff his head intellectually. if the prof was not looking we would laugh.

then one day we were doing our usual ward chores in internal medicine. a group of fourth years came in with a rotating consultant. the consultant lead them to a patient. he told them to examine the patient and make a diagnosis. he would be back in 30min to discuss the case with them.
as fourth years generally were they seemed a bit nervous about direct patient contact. finally they drew the curtain and one approached the patient.

it was about then that my clinical partner decided to 'help'. he stuck his head through the curtain and said.
"you guys, this patient has the leroy-burnell syndrome so make sure you don't miss that. but don't worry, the clinical signs are easy to pick up. good luck!"

the gratitude on the nervous face of the fourth years was clear as they simultaneously thanked my friend for his kind gesture and reached for their pocket references to look up the leroy-burnell syndrome. it seems they hadn't come across it in their studies yet.
i turned away to hide my laugh. i was imagining the pride on the unsuspecting face of the fourth year when he announces to the consultant that this was a classic case of leroy-burnell syndrome.