Fish stories

By Susan Piotti | Mar 27, 2014

Editor’s Note: Our regular columnist, John Piotti, has turned this week’s column over to his wife, Susan, a PA who practices medicine in both Unity and Waterville.

During a busy day, I enjoy sitting down with a patient and chatting — just chatting. Yet the only time I have that luxury is when I am repairing a wound, taking a biopsy, removing a foreign body, or pursuing some other such task. To chat conversationally puts the patient at ease and helps pass the time. Sometimes I learn an interesting personal tidbit. Often, though, I get to relate some of my favorite stories, culled from my 26 years in medicine.

My favorites are my fish stories. You’ve all heard classic fish stories about the “one that got away.” My stories are about the ones that got caught, the human “fish” inadvertently caught on the end of a fish hook.

My first experience happened when I was a student. An older gentleman walked into the clinic with a HUGE hinged lure dangling from his cheek. His old, stretchy skin sagged from the weight of the lure, which, incredibly, he did not try to support with his hand. The many angry, jangling hooks and the sagging skin made him quite a sight. Some frightened folks in the waiting room left, unable to tolerate sitting next to him. When we got him in, his only concern was to save the lure, his favorite. After taping all the other hooks so we wouldn’t get stuck ourselves, we extricated the lure and he left grinning, now that the lure was not weighing down his smile.

In the Emergency Room, we see lots of fish hooks. I walked into a room to see a fellow with a Band-aid placed in front of his ear. I gently removed the Band-aid and immediately screamed. Still skewered on the hook was the very much alive and wiggly worm. I bade the gentleman to take the worm off himself, helpfully handing him a mirror. My family will tell you: I don’t do worms.

A little boy had received a new tackle box with some new lures. He was sitting on his bed and got one stuck in his finger. In a panic, he shook his hand, embedding two more hooks in his fingers, plus several in his favorite quilt. He and his mom paraded in, as in the story of the Golden Goose, with the lure and the entire bed quilt, all stuck together. Sometimes it is hard not to laugh.

A no-nonsense gentlemen (a lawyer, he informed me) with a strong New York accent had gotten a bunch of hooks in his left nostril. His two sons (both Manhattan surgeons, I was told) had oh-so-helpfully cut the shanks so that only the ends of the curved section of the hooks were visible. All three men — each nearly 300 pounds — and I crowded into a tiny patient room. The two surgeon sons breathed on me, watching and commenting while I sweated and struggled, laboriously removing one, two, three hooks. I remember being tempted to just hand over my sterile instruments and let the sons have at it.

My favorite story is of a husband/wife team. Their tale is the classic one: husband begs wife to go fishing; she doesn’t want to; he tells her how much fun it is; they rent a canoe, paddle out, swat some mosquitos and he promptly casts a hook into her back. She came storming in, sputtering and fuming while he apologized profusely. Her hook, however, was in a perfect place to be removed using the “quick tug” technique: push down on the shank as it lays parallel to the skin (to disengage the barb), wrap a strong string around the visible curved section, and yank hard. One has to have faith that this will work, and I told the couple that I was pretty sure I could remove the hook easily. The woman grumpily agreed to whatever would be the fastest, and easy as pie, the hook came flying out with one firm tug. The husband was ecstatic. “Teach me that trick!” he cried in amazement. His wife spun around and glared at him, fire in her eyes. “You do not need to learn that trick because I am never, ever, going fishing with you again!” She stomped out. He followed behind, his apologies echoing down the hall way.

So, with ice-out coming and the menace of flying hooks from wayward casts looming in the near future, be extra careful to make sure you, and your loved ones, are indeed the “fish that got away.” If you get caught, come find me and we can laugh about it later.

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