When I was at my sickest to date, those TV episodes got me through a lot of lonely days, unable to move or interact with the world. I felt like it gave me a peek, albeit a fictional one, inside a doctor’s life. So although my experiences with doctors is often frustrating, I somehow had greater empathy for them. What also strikes me is that even though it is a fictional comedy, it’s surprisingly poignant.
I know it’s only TV, but at least the show shines the tiniest bit of light on the variety of medical conditions out there, including the rare and neglected ones.
Below are the Season 1 episodes that mention rare diseases, procedures and tests.
Season 1, Episode 10: There is a very stressed patient admitted into the hospital. She is having symptoms that are like that of a heart attack, but Dr. Cox explains to the intern that this woman’s “EKG negative; Tilt Table negative; Echo negative. Nyet, nada, zilch, nothing in fact is wrong with her but a little stress and exhaustion, brought on mostly by… oh, let it come… being her!”
I must admit, I was surprised they mentioned a Tilt Table test because that’s often used in testing for a form of dysautonomia, so kudos to them for mentioning it! But this also tells the brief story of how women’s medical complaints are often written off as “stress” which could prevent them from getting an accurate diagnosis.
Season 1, Episode 13: JD tells Doctor Cox he thinks his patient is suffering from Kuru. Kuru is super rare and is confined to one area of the world. So Dr. Cox goes on a rant about “Zebra” diagnoses and tells JD, when you hear hoof beats, “think horsies”, not zebras. His Zebra rant reminds me of why many of us fought for a correct diagnosis because we were in fact, zebras. I understand the logic, but it can be detrimental to those of us with rare diseases.
Season 1, Episode 20: Doctor Kelso asks a group of interns what the symptoms are of Meniere’s Disease. The interns stand silently, like deer in headlights! Doctor Murphy gets called on and says “Uh… can you use it in a sentence?”
Season 1, Episode 21: Dr. Kelso demands Dr. Reid to tell him the etiology of sarcoidosis… She doesn’t know which means she’s been slipping. So at least in this fictional world, knowing about sarcoidosis is a standard!
Season 1, Episode 23: This episode is tied to one of the later, darker episodes of the series. At one point, Turk (a surgeon) is literally up in arms that he doesn’t get to perform a Whipple procedure. While his outburst is coming from a surgical intern who wants experience, the Whipple procedure is most often completed for the horrific and rare pancreatic cancer.
Season 1, Episode 24: JD is having a classic day dream of Dr. Kelso asking him to tell him the EKG findings of Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome.
If you find yourself stuck in a position, sick, unable to read or comprehend much because of the meds or your particular condition, this show helped me feel less alone. And while it can’t replace reading, human interaction, activity and relationships, sometimes you just need a little pick-me-up on those down days.