Disclaimer: this post may offend some people. But if you do find yourself offended, you should probably check yourself because in all likelihood you are a Panda, and in that case I don’t care if I offend you anyway.
What is a Panda? A panda is a demanding breed of patient who thinks they deserve special treatment based on one thing: their whiteness.
Panda-ness is directly proportional to the degree of racism, rudeness and self-entitlement displayed by a patient.
A perfect example: an old white man sitting in the waiting room repeatedly asked me when he was going to be seen. He was referred directly to the surgeons, already a step ahead of the other patients who had to go through me first, and was therefore waiting for a surgeon. I think he stopped me in between every patient to demand that he be seen, or at least that I find him a bed to sleep in. His panda-ness was off the scale. Firstly, he obviously thought he was above the rest of the patients and that I’d have extra sympathy for his plea because we shared the same skin color. Sorry, sir, all I see at 2 o clock in the morning is another brown folder. In fact, at this point your whiteness is actually annoying me, and isn’t helping your case. Secondly, demanding that I find him a bed inside the hospital so he can sleep (never mind the old man with a BP so slow he probably won’t make the night. Or the pregnant mom who is bleeding and might lose her baby. Nevermind about them, as long as he has a bed to sleep in) is the definition of self-entitled. And finally, when I failed to grant his every selfish request, he checked the rudeness box and told me I was a disgraceful Doctor. And there you have it: the Panda syndrome! Racist, rude and self entitled, all wrapped up in a pale skinned package.
Some pandas are subtle (or so they think) and will give a suggestive comment like “Ag Dokter, can’t you just sneak me in. I’ve come from the mediclinic. It’s just that my medical aid is running a bit low.” I’m so sorry about your medical aid, maybe you should get a better one, and I really don’t care that you were just at the mediclinic. You are here now, so take a seat, it’s going to be a long night.
Others however, are not so subtle, like the lady who told me that she’d only come to the public hospital because she’s on holiday here and “hierdie plek is vir die klerelings en swartes”. (This place is for the coloureds and blacks). It took everything in me not to break her other leg.
Another classic one: a young girl catches me in the passage in between patients (I made eye contact, rookie error!) and asked me how to get her father seen by a doctor. So I explained to her that her father needs to be triaged by the nurses and then he will be assigned a colour code based on the urgency of his case and then I would see him when it was his turn. Oh, she says, she didn’t realize her father actually had to be here. Um… Sure thing, I’ll just send one of the nurses, who are already understaffed, to your house to do your father’s vitals and then you can bring him in when it’s his turn! *facepalm*
Sometimes they fool you though. They can be so good at hiding their Panda ways but their true colours always prevail in the end. On my last call my colleague and I saw a lady who had brought her baby in, a very healthy baby I might add. She was quite pleasant during the consultation. Probably because it was a quiet night and she had only waited about half an hour (Pandas are notoriously not good at waiting). We discharged them without antibiotics, because there are such things as viruses you know, which she was mildly unhappy about but accepted our reasons. About ten minutes later she came up to us and demanded to know why the ambulance wouldn’t take her home. After explaining to her that, contrary to popular belief, the ambulance is not a taxi service, she said that someone should have told her that before she came. If she had known, she would have stayed at home because, I quote, “Ek kan by die huis doen what julle nou gedoen het.” (I could’ve done at home what you did here). Well to be honest we wish you had stayed at home, but thanks for giving us the opportunity to examine a healthy baby for once. And why, if you are such a good doctor, did we have to show you how to apply nose drops then?
Those are only a few examples, but there are many slightly more subtle stories. I’ve only been working for four months and it’s already something I’ve noticed. The fact that there is a name for such behaviour means everyone else has noticed it too.
Obviously I’m exaggerating and I’ve treated a few pleasant white patients, but there is no getting around it, Panda Syndrome is real. So shout out to my fellow Caucasians: I don’t know how things work in your own little world, but in the George EC you’re nothing special, so just chill!