My Mathematical Frustrations with Birth Dates

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I did quite a bit of maths when I worked in the government hospitals. Hardly any of the patients know their age. So when you ask “how old are you?” , the patients respond with their year of birth; 1952 or 1936 for example. They don’t help me work out their age or try to work it out for themselves and they don’t understand why I’m a bit annoyed with their answer.

If you are under pressure for time its even more difficult to work out the sum. 1971, plus 2 is 1973 plus what gives me 2013? I’m lucky when the patient is born in the same year or around the same year as me or my mom- it makes the maths easier. If you have to see 70 patients and you take 15 seconds to work out each patient’s age that adds an extra 17 and a half minutes to your work! Its funny thinking about it now but I did get annoyed with the “1954” instead of 59 years answer a couple of times.

Sometimes I only had myself to blame. I remember this one time in particular when I made a complete blunder working out a patients age: I often worked alone in the Out Patient Clinic at our hospital which can get quite hectic. You have to constantly push yourself for time otherwise you won’t be able to see all the patients. This day was really busy and the patient files were a tall pile on my desk. I felt a bit pressurized. I took the top file to call the next patient in. I saw his date of birth on his file is 1993. Okay, so I’m looking for a young child. I call his name: “Sipho Mohaphi.” A tall man walks towards me. I’m already frustrated at this man wasting my time and I ask him: “Ntate, are you Sipho?”. “Yes.” he answers politely. Rolling my eyes, I point to the “1993” on the file and say highly annoyed: “Ntate, are you ten years old!?”

Just then, after I had shouted at him in front of all the other patients, I realize…. Its 2013, so someone born in 1993 is already 20 years old, not 10 like I was thinking…Eish.

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