Once upon a time, I was doing a clinical rotation in an emergency department at a hospital and this 8ish year old girl came in after having a syncopal episode.
“Syncopal episode” is the big medical word for “randomly fainting and regaining consciousness really really fast right after hitting the floor.” Actually, most people who have a syncopal episode have more problems from hitting the floor (or toilet, or other object) than the actual stuff that caused them to pass out. But anyway…
She had a fainting episode and was coming to the emergency room for further evaluation and whatnot to figure out what caused her to faint in the first place. An ambulance crew brought her in, and they moved the very anxious 8-year-old from the stretcher over to the bed in the ER room.
The nurse I was shadowing and I went into the room to talk to her and to do medial-type things (basically just ask what happened while oozing with confidence). As soon as we got in the room, the nurse said, “I forgot something, stay here and keep her company until I get back.”
Ok, no big deal. I like kids, they’re amusing and easy to get along with as long as they don’t poop on you or something. So I introduced myself and took a seat on the stool next to the bed and started to ask her what happened, how she was feeling, how old she was, etc.
She was acting fine, answering my questions with ease, but still acted a little anxious. Then she suddenly went from a little anxious to full blown panic attack. She started to panic and cry and freak out, typical panic attack-type things.
My first thought was, “this is a little inconvenient… oh, I have an idea!”
I sat up a little straighter on my stool (I love roller stools), looked her square in the eye with a grin and said, “Ok, I only have one more question for you, and it might possibly be the single most important question you’ll ever be asked in your life. Are you ready to hear it?”
She nodded with a panicked look on her face.
I said (in a serious-esk voice), “if you could have a tail, what kind of tail would you have?”
She stopped the panicking dead in her tracks, stopped the crying and shuddering, and with a surprised looked said “what?!” I had totally caught her off guard with it, and that was my plan.
I told her my spiel about how everyone would have a tail if they could have one, I told her what kind of tail I would have, what kind of tails some of my friends wanted, and then the Registration Lady walked in. It turns out she heard it all and found it funny. I was shocked. She found my uber serious question funny, like it was a joke or something. Some people… Anyway…
Registration Lady looked very amused by this conversation, so I said, “don’t be giggling, you’d have one too if you could.” She said she’d have to give it some thought before answering “that kind of life-changing question.”
So I turned my attention back to the kid, and she said, “are we talkin’ like animal tails? Or like… not animal tails?” I told her it included every kind of tail (even tales).
After about 30 seconds of serious thought from her (yeah, she spent 30 seconds seriously deciding this), she went with a dragon tail. She was very specific that it was the fire breathing kind of dragon tail, not the Komodo kind of dragon tail.
In the end, it got her to mellow out and relax and all was good. Her family showed up 10 minutes later and I could hear her asking them the same question from down the hall.