Where did I go wrong? Fake stethescopes are more than a novelty


In this particular case, I got a complete history after just three repeated attempts to listen to the chest.

In 1929, while working in his laboratory at the University of London, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered a strange green substance growing rapidly on several culture plates. It didn't take him long to realize that he had stumbled upon a discovery that would change history. He had invented the Chia Pet.

Although his future fame and fortune were now sealed, he experimented with other uses for the greenish mold. Unsure as to whether or not he had also invented Rogaine, he tried rubbing some of the balding head of Petulance Brawn, the ladies field hockey coach. This did not go over well, to say the least. Perhaps he should have asked for Mrs. Brawn's permission first.

Later, after he regained consciousness, he was given the Nobel Prize for the discovery of penicillin, the achievement for which he is best known to this day. For some reason, his name never seems to be associated with his other now famous discoveries, including the whoopee cushion and fake dog poop, just to name a couple.

Condemned to repeat it?

Why am I giving you a history lesson? Well, as you might recall, I pointed out in last month's column that Thomas Edison invented the voting machine. (Note: If you spend your time reading this column every month, you really ought to get a life.) Anyway, I just thought it might be time to give credit to some other brilliant inventors.

Take, for example, Mr. Eureka. His dog, Feerbyter, likes to cower under the exam room chair. His head reaches out just far enough to viciously bite anyone foolish enough to get close. He employs the strategy of a cornered snapping turtle. Using the chair as his shell, he snaps and retreats.

Pretending like a turtle?

The last time they were in to see me, Feerbyter was right in the middle of his turtle imitation when Mr. Eureka was stricken with a brilliant idea. "You know, Doc," he said. "Feerbyter doesn't want to come out from under that chair. I'll bet he feels safer under there than he does when he's up on the table. (Gee, do you think so?)

Why don't you have a chair fastened on top of each exam table? Then dogs and cats could hide under a chair while they're up there." (Now, why didn't I think of that?)

After giving the idea an appropriate amount of thought, I decided to leave the furniture the way it was. Having a chair on the table would change everything. Instead of having the dog lunge at my knees, I could have him lunging at my face.

The very next office call was Mrs. Softalk. Apparently her cat "wasn't himself" that day, and she wanted me to check him out. It took me five minutes just to get that much information from her. She didn't say much, and when she did it was in a soft almost inaudible voice.

I put the stethescope in my ears, and as soon as I did, I could see her lips moving. Hoping to get a morsel of history, I stopped what I was doing and asked her to repeat what she had said. She told me that the critter had vomited once.

Once again, I began to listen, and once again she was talking while I couldn't hear her. You get the idea. Some clients only talk while the stethoscope is in use. When they see you using it, they are stimulated to talk. The rest of the time, you feel like taking their pulse to see if they are still alive. In this particular case, I got a complete history after just three repeated attempts to listen to the chest.

The reason I was able to accomplish this so quickly was that I used an invention that my friend and colleague Arnie had come up with. When Mrs. Softalk started babbling for the third time, I was using a special fake stethoscope that he had developed. It has holes in the tubes. This allows me to pretend to listen to an animal, stimulate the client to begin chattering, and actually hear what he or she is saying at the same time.

Is it any wonder that I consider Arnie the greatest inventor of all time?

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