My Stethoscope

We all have that item we hold so dear. It could be a car, a piece of cloth, an artwork, jewelries or something as small as a pen.

Mine is my stethoscope.
It’s the oldest medical tool I have kept for 17 years.

I remember how I dashed to Agbowo that year, with 30,000 naira in my bag and a long list of items to be bought. I had just crossed to the clinical side of medical school, after rigorous blocks of lectures, practicals and examinations.

The deafening noise from the engine of the rickety ‘danfo’ muffled the palpitations of my heart. With utmost vigilance, I jumped off the bus opposite the University main gate and navigated through the busy street that leads to the popular low-cost bookshop.

The shopkeeper showed me different brands and models, but I opted for Littman’s classic II with a black tubing and adjustable diaphragm – one of the latest editions of that era. The package came with two other instruments. There was a patella hammer, which is used for testing how well the nerves are working, and a pen touch for focused lighting.

The excitement of buying my first set of medical books and instruments was nothing compared to the sheer joy of hanging the stethoscope around my neck. The feeling was surreal!

My stethoscope and I have been living happily ever after. We have been to some remote villages in Ibarapa and some big cities in Europe. We have travelled to the desert across the red sea and flown to the snowy mountains of North America. Even when I was not travelling to practise medicine, I still carried it with me like a snail would carry its shell.

Even though I have been provided with other ones at work, I can’t but love my stethoscope more. Even when I took a break from medical practice, it’s always there to remind me of the oath I had sworn, to serve humanity.

I have used it to listen to different thoraces and abdomens. I have heard the murmurs of failing hearts and borborygmi of bloated abdomens. I have heard some sounds that weren’t clear enough to my amateurish ears. I have gained experience from my teachers who have mastered the art of auscultation.

Will I replace it with a newer edition? Probably not. I’ll leave that to the nerds in cardiology and chest medicine.

We’ve experienced many proud moments – when I was given VIP treatment because the stethoscope was found on me. There were early mornings and late nights when the police wouldn’t stop me, as they sighted it in my car. There were airport security checkpoints where I didn’t have to wait for too long because the stethoscope was in my bag…

This sweetheart has saved many lives – hundreds of lives, too many to be mentioned.

I was called to see a little girl one midnight. She was struggling to breathe, flaring her nose to catch some air. Her eye balls were bulging out of severe distress. A wheeze was audible from her narrowed airway. Her grandmother was crying for help, while her parents could not be reached. I and my companion – my stethoscope – examined the girl and reversed her asthmatic attack as fast as we could. We bought enough time before getting someone to drive us to the hospital at 2am… Alhamdulillaah she survived!

There have been sad moments too. Moments when it was too late to reverse a dying soul. Moments when I couldn’t hear any breath sound, or heart beat, because the angel of death had done his deed. Moments when Allaah proved to me and my stethoscope, that we have no power, except for HIS WILL. Moments when I angrily tossed my stethoscope aside, and certified a patient, dead.

I may not be rich, but I have been enriched by the experience of using this stethoscope.

I may not have a chest of treasures stashed away, but I have my stet, hanging on my neck like a treasured ornament!

©Doctor KT