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Logo of bmjThis ArticleThe BMJ
BMJ. 2008 January 12; 336(7635): 76.
PMCID: PMC2190249

Knowing too much

Sofie Zermansky, physiotherapy department, Stockport Primary Care Trust, Stockport and Adam Zermansky, specialist registrar, neurology department, Greater Manchester Neuroscience Centre

“There’s something wrong with her eye, it doesn’t seem to abduct past the midline. I think she has a sixth nerve palsy.”

figure zers507517.f1

Twenty four hours after undergoing an emergency caesarean section, I was not in the mood for my husband (a neurology registrar) to be overdiagnosing my newborn baby. “There’s nothing wrong with her eye,” I replied, “she passed her baby check with flying colours.”

Of course, what followed was a plethora of specialists, none of whom wished to contradict my husband’s diagnosis. My non-medical family were bemused. They could see nothing wrong, and, irrationally, I was angry with my husband for spotting it. I could sense his anxiety, but he would not share his differential diagnoses. A normal transcranial ultrasound scan did little to alleviate his worries. Eventually, when a diagnosis of Duane’s syndrome was reached and we were told it was more of a nuisance than a problem, the cloud lifted.

When I discussed the trauma of the episode with a friend, she commented that it was extremely stressful being married to a doctor because they knew too much. I remembered my initial annoyance at what I considered to be my husband’s overdiagnosing of my perfect baby. I reflected on the fact that the paediatrician had also admitted to performing sneaky checks on her own newborn children, and that my brother in law had been convinced that his second child was deaf for at least the first 24 hours of his life. I realised that my experience was far from unique.

I replied that the important thing to remember is that it’s not their fault; knowledge, once learnt, cannot be ignored or wilfully forgotten. As the scorpion said to the frog, “I cannot help myself for it is my nature.”

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