The Guinness Book of Medical Records

By Howard J. Bennett, MD

News Item—After many years of publication, The Guinness Book of Records has come out with its first medical edition. Applications for next year’s update are now open.

Longest time in a doctor’s waiting room

The longest wait in a doctor’s office is 19-1/2 hours. Melvin Barnswallow set this record on March 10, 1994 when he showed up at his doctor’s office at 1:30 p.m. and was not seen until 9 a.m. the following day.

It turned out that Barnswallow had left his hearing aid at home and didn’t notice when his name was called to see the doctor. When 5 o’clock rolled around, Barnswallow decided to tidy up a bit (he’d eaten lunch and two snacks in the corner of the waiting room) and the nurses thought he was a new member of the cleaning staff.

It wasn’t until the office opened the next morning that the nurses realized Barnswallow had been there all night. Rather than being upset, he said it was the best sleep he’d had in months. His symptoms had resolved over night and he went home after the doctor pronounced him “fit as a fiddle.”

Shortest doctor’s visit

The shortest doctor’s visit ever recorded occurred on October 23, 1989—it was 1.2 seconds long.

Maggie Collins went to see her dermatologist for a mark on her forehead that she’d been meaning to get checked out for months. The doctor diagnosed a simple “age spot” as the nurse was escorting Ms. Collins back to an examination room.

Dr. Whitney, who has a fondness for “doorway diagnoses,” presented Collins with his opinion, told her she had nothing to worry about, and quickly disappeared into a room to see his next patient. Ms. Collins left the office relieved, though a bit dazed.

When questioned about the visit, she said, “I hear Dr. Whitney is a very good doctor. I wonder if he’s this quick in the sack.”

Longest episode of vomiting

Henry Carter won the record for the longest episode of vomiting ever recorded shortly after capturing his third consecutive pie-eating contest on August 4, 1985.

Mr. Carter “hurled” 68 feet 4-1/2 inches when he unwisely topped off his massive pie consumption with a Hostess Cupcake he’d found lying in the grass.

According to one of the judges (who is also a Guinness referee) Henry’s achievement was something to behold. “It reminded me of the Hail Mary pass one of my roommates threw in college to win the final game in our year-long struggle against Notre Dame.”

Most drug reps dodged in a single day

On April 3, 1992, Dr. Samuel Roberts avoided talking any drug representatives throughout the entire day.

Dr. Roberts got to work as usual at 9 a.m. As it was allergy season, the first drug rep arrived at 9:01. Dr. Roberts busied himself with some fictitious phone calls until his first patient showed up.

The drug rep tried to introduce himself the moment Dr. Roberts stepped out of his office. The doctor responded with a classic head fake, whereby he smiled and glanced over at one of his nurses. Naturally, the rep turned to see who the doctor was looking at. By the time he turned back, Roberts had vanished into an exam room.

Throughout a grueling nine-hour day, the athletic Dr. Roberts dodged an additional 37 reps, beating the previous record (28), which was set in 1952. According to the nurses that witnessed this amazing feat, the talented internist used a combination of techniques to throw off the drug reps.

“It was just amazing to watch,” one of the nurses said. “Sam jogged, twisted, and rolled his way past all of them. A couple of times, he slowed down and pulled out his pen as if he was going to sign for some samples. But then he’d reach for his beeper (which he set off himself) or he’d turn his head pretending that a patient called him. A few of us are worried that he might quit because we know he wants to leave medicine at the top of his game.”

The longest H&P

The record for the longest history and physical examination is seven hours 42 minutes, set in 1995 by third-year medical student, Brian Tooth.

The first day of Tooth’s internal medicine clerkship unfortunately coincided with the 34th admission for Ida Marie Threadwhistle, an 82-year-old ex-schoolteacher who had more medical problems than letters in her name. Tooth was seen entering Ida’s room at 9:27 a.m. and did not reappear until 5:09 p.m. that afternoon.

According to witnesses, Tooth exited the room with a stunned look on his face and mumbled something about wishing he’d taken a job at his brother’s sausage packing company. He then absentmindedly picked up a few trays of partially eaten food and wandered into a nearby room to write up his report.

When queried about what took him so long, Tooth said it was the review of systems that got him. “It just went on and on,” he said, wiping rice pudding from his upper lip. “She answered yes to every question I asked. From now on, I’m doing admission physicals like surgeons—if it doesn’t hurt, I’m not asking about it.”

Most questions asked on rounds

On December 19, 1978, infectious disease expert Rodney Fisher asked his students and residents 183 questions during the two hours it took to round on their patients at a Boston hospital.

Dr. Fisher began his record-breaking session by asking his students to recite the Hippocratic Oath in Latin. Over the next two hours, he queried the team on everything from mononucleosis to parasitic infections in New Guinea.

Unfortunately, Dr. Fisher spent so much time asking questions that he didn’t realize one of his patients was going into shock. When a medical student asked him what he thought about the patient’s blue extremities, the eminent Dr. Fisher responded with a question about the causes of cyanosis.

Dr. Fisher currently practices at a small clinic in northern Montana.

The fastest malpractice case

The fastest malpractice case occurred in Manchester, England in 1698 when Phineas Plumstroke inadvertently bled the wrong patient.

Emma Thompson, who was the youngest daughter of the town magistrate, went to see Dr. Plumstroke because of a twisted ankle. Unfortunately, her sister Josephine had been in the previous day complaining of fatigue and a phlegmatic personality disorder.

Because he was running behind schedule, Dr. Plumstroke inadvertently grabbed Josephine’s chart when he went in to see Emma. He applied 16 leeches and drained a quart of blood from her body before realizing his mistake. Emma did not survive the treatment, and her father successfully sued Dr. Plumstroke for his entire estate by the following morning.

Ruined, Plumstroke went to another town where he got a job supplying doctor’s offices with quills, leeches, and brand-name pharmaceutical samples.

© 2012 Howard J. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.

(First published in Stitches, The Journal of Medical Humor September 2001.)

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