At The Nervous Breakdown: Playing Doctor

Full piece at the Nervous Breakdown.

In kindergarten, I accessorized my “Save The Planet” t-shirt collection and kelly green stirrup leggings with a Fisher Price doctor’s bag. I was going to be a doctor, probably a heart surgeon.  My delighted parents added kindling to the dream by providing me with doctor stuff to play with – a subscription to the Time-Life Science Library, a chem set, and best of all, in fourth grade, a projection microscope.

I had the perfect opportunity to show off my new toy: a science presentation on the circulatory system. I was going to show my class actual human blood cells. The process was simple: draw blood, make slide, put in microscope, focus, and project image on a flat, white surface. The cells didn’t keep their shape (like webbed inner tubes) for long, so the blood had to be fresh. But when I was told that zero tolerance meant I couldn’t prick my own finger in school with a pin, not even for science, I somehow convinced my mother to come into school and donate some blood for my presentation. She arrived at the nurse’s office, where I was waiting with a prepared slide. Just add blood. I guess she wanted to make sure I had enough blood to show, because instead of a needle, she brought the largest kitchen knife we had, and (under the somber supervision of the school nurse), sliced open her index finger. I eagerly collected a couple of drops of blood from her gaping wound and ran upstairs to my classroom without so much as a “thank you.”

Soon after, perhaps worried that my thirst for science would lead to more substantial “donations” in the future, my parents hooked me up with some serious fake doctor cred: Emergency Room, the DOS-based video game. On the inside flap of the CD case, a doctor, holding a model of a femur, encourages, “No bones about it – anyone can be successful as an emergency room doctor.”

Emergency Room is exactly what it sounds like: you, the doctor, treat and triage everything from a “Nose problem – foreign body (Toddler Male Black)” to “Poisoning (High School Female Asian)” to “Stroke (Paramedic)”. You pick patients from the waiting room and move them through to discharge – hopefully, without killing them.

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