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'Doctor ...' — a case of mistaken identity

I have been the object of mistaken identity at least twice in my life. One of the incidents never ceases to elicit a chuckle from me whenever I recall it.

Burton K. Janes

A family friend from halfway across the Island had been admitted to the Grace General Hospital in St. John’s. Because I worked in the capital city at the time, I was delegated to pay him an occasional goodwill visit. I dutifully did what was expected of me. However, on the eve of his surgery, it was understood that I would go the extra mile and make a pastoral visit.

Gobbling down a quick lunch, I left my work station on Thorburn Road and dashed to the hospital. I was dressed in my Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes, complete with blazer and dress pants, tie and white shirt. My friend and I chatted for 15 minutes or so. Then I read a Bible passage and prayed with him.

“We’ll be thinking of you,” I said as I waved and left his room.

Outside the hospital, I walked rapidly towards the parking lot behind the building. It was a blustery day. The wind was blowing and rain was mercilessly pounding the sidewalk, not to mention my bald head. My pate was lowered as I bravely battled the elements.

Suddenly, I almost collided with someone who was waiting at the bus stop. I lifted my head and saw a young woman. I was about to apologize for the near accident before moving on. My initial glance through rain-splattered eyeglasses affirmed that she was oh so very pregnant. Indeed, she was bursting at the seams. My unprofessional opinion was that she was about to give birth right there on the sidewalk.

As our gaze met, I detected a flicker of recognition in her eyes. But her identity was a mystery to me. She looked away for a moment, then back at me. Our eyes locked.

“Doctor, did you get the results of my ultrasound back yet?” she asked.

There was a pregnant pause (pun intended).

“Huh?” I squeaked. Then, remembering my manners, I rephrased my query, “Pardon me, but what did you say?”

“Did you get my ultrasound results back yet, doctor?” she repeated.

I was momentarily confused. Then a realization hit me, “My Glory, she thinks I’m her doctor!” My next thought was, “Well, that gives me a mental image of what he looks like. He too must be balding, wearing glasses and pleasantly plump.”

“My dear,” I responded firmly, “I’m not even a doctor!”

Now it was her turn to be confused. She stared at me disbelievingly. She must have thought, “Not a doctor? You know you’re my doctor. Don’t you remember me? You’re the one who did my ultrasound. I want to know if you got the results back yet.”

The conversation was over as far as I was concerned. I continued on my way, not daring to look back. I wondered, though, if she was embarrassed once she realized the mistake she had made. Or perhaps she thought that her doctor was terribly ignorant by refusing to discuss her ultrasound with her.

Well-meaning friends often make unsolicited suggestions. So, someone later said to me that I should have answered the woman’s question this way; “Yes, I have the results of your ultrasound here with me now. Congratulations! You’re going to have sextuplets!”

Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached by email at

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