Divine Intervention Nick needed a perfect score on his final exams in order to graduate medical school. Since he completely failed his first exam, what he needed was nothing short of a miracle.
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Divine Intervention

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Divine Intervention

Divine Intervention

Divine Intervention

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Nick needed a perfect score on his final exams in order to graduate medical school. Since he completely failed his first exam, what he needed was nothing short of a miracle.

GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

Welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT from PRX and NPR - the Simpatico episode. My name is Glynn Washington, and today on the SNAP, we're looking for connections that go way beyond the regular. And for our next story, SNAP JUDGMENT's Davey Kim takes us back to Nick Earls' last year of medical school. In fact, this story goes back to Nick's last 20 minutes of medical school. That's right. SNAP JUDGMENT.

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NICK EARLS: On my way to my last exam, where two surgeons would show me a patient and I'd have to take a history, do an examination, go through questions, then go into another one and do that again, I realized that if I didn't do well, that I could fail the surgery viva because these things are a lottery. And then I wouldn't pass surgery, and I wouldn't graduate with my friends, and I would be coming back in a month or so to do another surgical term as a student. So never in my entire degree had so much hinged on 20 minutes. So I turned up rather more anxious than I should've been, and the two examiners met me and led me into the first patient and gave me five minutes to take a history and do an examination, which really is not very long at all. And I took the history. There didn't seem to be anything too remarkable going on. It sounded like a story of reflux esophagitis. So then I examined the patient's abdomen and, as expected with that condition, found nothing, and thought, I really hope that's it, because if there's something - if there's something big here, I've totally missed it. The examiners came in, and I presented my findings, and I said my diagnosis was that I thought it was reflux esophagitis. And they said, good, good, without giving too much away. I thought, I'm on the right track here. And how would you treat reflux esophagitis? And I thought, aha, a trap for the young player. In a surgical exam, where you go wrong is by suggesting massive re-plumbing in the first minute. Well, I'd start conservatively. And they said, that's good. That's good. What would you use? And I was thinking, come on, this is just a bit of reflux. This is just a bit of heartburn. And I just - my mind went completely blank. And all that occurred to me was an ad that was on TV at the time for Gaviscon.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Gaviscon, the calming raft for rapid relief of heartburn and indigestion.

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EARLS: It was all I had. So I just said, well, I might start with - I might start with some Gaviscon. And they said, all right. The patient smirked and thought, enough, enough of that from you, thanks.

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EARLS: And they said, and what's the mechanism of action of Gaviscon? And I thought, wait, six years in this degree and we've never mentioned Gaviscon. All I've got is the TV ad. That's all I've got. And I don't even remember the TV ad for Gaviscon from the mid-1980s, but all I could do is look at them with a kind of engaging smile and go, I'm led to believe it forms a calming raft.

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EARLS: And - at which the patient laughed and the examiners, who should've laughed, went stony-faced on me. And I thought, this is it, not getting the honors degree. And right at the moment, I am spiraling towards Earth with smoke coming out of my (expletive). I need to be a genius with the second case, which I know is going to be harder and a bit more involved and surely involve something physical. So they took me in to the room with the second person just behind the screen. And there was a man standing there with no pants on. And I thought that's a bit of a hint about where I'll be heading. And they said, we'd like you to examine this gentleman's scrotal mass, his - yeah. So I went down - went down on my knees, and I started - I thought, no, no, no. No, no, don't touch it first. There's a rule. Like, we had 10 things to do to a lump -10 things to do to a lump. I needed to do all 10 of them, and I needed to do them in a reasonable order.So I went down on my knees and went, whoa, whoa, like checking the whole scrotum out. So they go, yes, he inspected first. And then it's hands to the scrotum for the palpation. And straight away I could feel it was a varicocele of the - of the - yeah. And so I knew what it was and I thought, great. But then I thought, no, no, not great, because if you turn around now and tell them what it is, you've only done 2 out of the 10 things you do to a lump - progragitated (ph), inspection, palpation, percussion, auscultation. I put on my stethoscope and I listened to it, because that's what you do to a lump. And I gradually worked my way through, sensing that they were nodding. And then I got to about number eight. OK - transilluminate - can I shine my torch through this mass? So I passed my hand between his thighs and lit it from behind. There's no light coming through. And then I've got one more to do. What is it? Does it transmit a coughing pulse? OK. So I cup the scrotum in my hands, and I said to the man, could you please turn your head and cough? And he turned his head, and instead of coughing, he said, there's the Pope. And that's when I thought, I'm going to fail this exam now, because, of course, I should have diagnosed his psychotic illness when I came in, and it's not testicular at all. But then I got my chin up on the window ledge and looked out the window, and down there was the Pope.

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EARLS: So it was the one day in history that the Pope has visited Brisbane. And Pope John Paul II said mass at QEII Stadium on the South side, and he was on his way back into the city in the papal cavalcade, and there he was. And I was, you know, on my knees, cupping a scrotum.

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EARLS: And he stopped the Popemobile, and he looked up. And because we're a hospital, he looked up and he very slowly started to bless us. And the man is going, can you believe that? That's the Pope. He's looking right at us. I'm going, yeah, you've got no pants on.

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EARLS: And they - and he was talking about the Pope, and I could hear the examiners behind me talking about the Pope. And I thought, maybe I can release the scrotum now.

(LAUGHTER)

EARLS: So I let go and quietly backed away on my knees as the pants-less man and my examiners just crapped on about the Pope for the next 10 minutes. He looked right up at us. Do you believe that? He looked right at me. Who would have thought the Pope would - blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then the buzzer went off, and my exam was over. And they looked at me, and they realized they've forgotten to examine me. And they said, all right then, thanks, that was - yeah, that's really good. And they had to give me a very good mark because they'd forgotten. So I ended up getting the honors degree after all.

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WASHINGTON: Thanks to Nick for sharing that story. Now, Nick is no longer a doctor - thank goodness. He's now an award-winning novelist. And a special shout-out as well to "Conversations With Richard Fidler" for bringing us Nick's story. "Conversations" is an Australian radio program filled with in-depth interviews and storytelling. To find out more about author Nick Earls and "Conversations With Richard Fidler," we'll have links on our website, snapjudgment.org

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WASHINGTON: It's about that time, but you're thinking to yourself, that's not enough SNAP. Stories are life. I need more in my world. Well, I've got the solution - the SNAP JUDGMENT storytelling podcast. Subscribe now at snapjudgment.org - hours of amazing storytelling from amazing people. And join the SnapNation conversation on Facebook, SNAP JUDGMENT Twitter, SNAP JUDGMENT. SNAP was produced by myself and a team that always sees eye to eye - my brother from another mother, the uber producer, Mr. Mark Ristich...

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WASHINGTON: ...The beat master, Pat Mesiti-Miller, on her own wavelength, Anna Sussman, Julia DeWitt, who's master of her domain. Joe Rosenberg brings the pain. Nancy Lopez rides the train, while Davey Kim plays the game. The get-er-done crew - Ana Adlerstein, Eliza Smith, Leon Morimoto and Aurora Soria (ph). Ask Jazmin Aguilera no questions, and Jazmin Aguilera will tell you no lies.

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WASHINGTON: Did you ever see a baby with a SNAP JUDGMENT tattoo emblazoned on their forehead? No, we didn't either. It was all photo-shopped, we assure. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting were 97 percent certain no infants were harmed in the making of this program. Many thanks to the CPB. PRX, the Public Radio Exchange, does have a SNAP tattoo hidden where you can't see it - prx.org.

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WASHINGTON: And this is not the news. No way is this the news. In fact, you could dress up your baby for the first day of school, give him a kiss on the forehead, drop him off in the schoolyard only to receive a call from the school principal four hours later. I'm sorry, madam, this school is for human children, not for gorillas. What's wrong with you? You're taking this whole Simpatico thing too far. And you would still, still not be as far away from the news as this is. This is NPR.

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