Royal and famous patients 7. A rash dilemma

Royal and famous patients 7. A rash dilemma

It is a stretch to call this one a royal patient, but it might amuse.

For a while I was a member of the Royal Air Force volunteer reserve. I may have mentioned before that our whole family was into gliding, big time in my youth.

John. Dad and Moi

When I got to Cambridge University I found, like brother John before me, that the University air squadron would teach me to fly (on “Chipmunk” trainers) and pay me to join the reserve. What’s not to like?

The only payback was to spend 2 weeks each summer at an Air Force base dressed in blue and tuning up on marching and saluting. One year, as a medical student, I was put in charge of “sick parade”. A young airman presented with a skin rash that the nurse and I did not recognize. What to do? The nurse said that specialists sometimes came from the local hospital to see difficult cases, and that a dermatologist might be on the list. Wow! When?  He looked it up and came back triumphant. “He is due this afternoon”!

So, we happily informed the patient, advised him to return at 2pm, and went off for lunch.

Lunch was interrupted by a call from the base commander. “Cotton, this afternoon’s visiting specialist has just cancelled. You are it”


Should I change my tie and return as my identical twin brother? Perhaps that would itself be rash. Maybe I could look for inspiration by delving deep into my dermatology training as a student at St Thomas’s Hospital. I remember my teacher, Hugh Wallace, who had an unusual method of delivering his knowledge.

He had a row of little bottles containing different unguents on the desk in his clinic. If you could not tell him the correct one to use for a particular condition, he threw it at you. I was hit with “Ung emulsifications aquosum”.  I will not likely forget that useless fact, nor the core advice from my surgical teacher whose only contribution to my knowledge was to ask me “how tall was Queen Victoria”? Somehow we don’t teach like that anymore.

All part of life’s rich tapestry.

2 Responses

  1. Brucie Harry says:

    What happened to the rash patient? Hope you didn’t have to do anything rash.
    Love these stories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *