Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

A Martian treatment for dehydration

Multicolored carrots. Stephen Ausmus. USDA ARS Image Number K11611-1. Wikimedia

Howard Fischer
Uppsala, Sweden


I was “rotating” through the pediatric service in an American general hospital. As a sixth-year student of a European medical school, I had been allowed to return home for my year of clinical duties before graduation.

One day, during pediatric rounds, a resident presented an infant who had been admitted because of vomiting and diarrhea. The goal of the hospitalization was to prevent the child from becoming dehydrated.

“So, Howard,” the chief of pediatrics asked me, “How would you treat this patient?”

I responded by reciting what I had learned in Europe. “You take one liter of water, add a few hundred grams of carrots and a pinch of salt. You boil the carrots and then you give the infant this carrot water to drink. If you don’t have carrots handy, you can use rice.”

Silence. What I heard was stunned silence after my recitation. Everyone, service chief, residents, and American medical students looked at me as if I had come from Mars. The chief then discussed intravenous rehydration, and the use of oral balanced electrolyte solutions for mild cases of gastroenteritis.

I learned a lesson: Some treatment styles do not cross oceans easily.




HOWARD FISCHER, MD, was a professor of pediatrics at Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan.


Summer 2021  |  Sections  |  Vignettes at Large

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