The Suave syndrome

With advancing technological innovation and improved medical diagnostic techniques, new diseases are being discovered every day. Early on in the discovery process, a pattern of distinct symptoms appears. With repetition and a keen memory, this same pattern comes to be known as a syndrome. When this discovery is eventually published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it could be referred to as the Suave Syndrome, named after the first person to describe this unique cluster of presenting symptoms, Dr. Suave.

This is all very well and good, of course, unless you are the person on whom such symptoms are first discovered. And so it was, on my first visit with Dr. Suave. I had been assured by my wife that Dr. Suave, a dermatologist, was a capable and very thorough physician in his examinations. At the sight of the slightest suspicion, he examines each and every blemish until he understands what he has discovered. She convinced me to have Dr. Suave look at an unsightly and irritating little wart on the back of my arm. In spite of my natural aversion to doctors, I relented, and made an appointment.

The appointment was scheduled for 1:15 in the afternoon. As was our routine, we ventured south to Daytona’s Volusia Square Mall around mid-morning, where we would walk a lap or two, eat a light lunch, and kill time until the appointment. As is my wife’s custom, she invariably wanders off into the various stores, while I curl-up in the food court reading and waiting for her to return. At the appointed time, we headed for and I checked into the Dermatology Center where Dr. Suave holds forth.

Following the usual preliminaries, I was advised to disrobe and put on the garment with the open view to the rear. After a very short wait, Dr. Suave entered the examining room with two attractive female assistants. As my wife had assured me, they proceeded to examine every exposed inch of my body, making notations, observing the barnacles and skin tabs here and there. They froze a few suspicious specs, then asked me to stand and turn around, exposing the generous rear view.

Starting at the top and working down, little of note was acknowledged from their conversation. When Dr. Suave arrived at my legs, he observed:

“Look at this unusual structure. It is almost a straight line, and quite pronounced.”

At this point, the three are gazing at my legs, while I am facing the other direction, and I sense an intensive group visual examination of my beautiful calves.

As a person addicted to wearing shorts, I regularly attract comments from curious and outspoken persons about my calves. “You must be an athlete,” they say. “I bet you are a coach, because of your muscular calves,” one gentleman said. “Do you work out on a regular basis?” they ask. “I bet you are a biker or a mountain climber!”

The answer to all these questions is always the same.

“No! My calves are purely genetic,” I say, “My mother had calves exactly like mine, and she never participated in any form of sports, or exercise program, except one. I would take responsibility for them, if I could, but it is all in the genes.”

Dr Suave continued:

“And here is what appears to be several quite straight lines, almost a kind of subcutaneous grid, and is certainly suspicious. I don’t know if I have ever seen anything quite like this before.”

With the three of them examining my right calf in detail, one of the assistants asked:

“You had some veins removed during an earlier surgery, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” I replied, “In both legs, but not from the calves.”

I was on the verge of becoming concerned that some strange, new phenomenon, a new syndrome, had just been discovered, and was living on the backside of my right calf where I couldn’t see it.

Then I really began to worry to myself; “Had I acquired some rare or fatal invasive plague in the back of my legs from some trip to foreign lands? Have I acquired a Mediterranean Monster, and should I cancel my trip to Sicily next week?”

Dr. Suave continued: “Do you have any idea what might be going on here?”

Of course, I had no idea what they were talking about, since I was facing the other direction, and could respond only to their thoughts. Then it struck me what they might be describing.


“When I read,” I said “I always stretch my hamstrings”.

I wondered if I had discovered the etiology of this new, and previously unseen syndrome.

“I don’t think that could account for it,” Dr Suave replied.

This doubtful response required me to consider exactly what I had been doing at the mall, where I had sat, and how I usually go about stretching my hamstrings as I read.

“But, Dr. Suave,” I continued, “I just came from the Volusia Square Mall where I propped my left leg over the seat of a chair, and heisted my right leg over my left leg, pressing my left calf down upon the seat of the chair under considerable pressure.”

Still the skeptic, Dr. Suave continued, “And what is the structure of the seat of the chair?” he asked.

“It is a coarse, wire mesh, not very comfortable, but it is the only seating available in the food court,” I added. “Some malls are really ideal for stretching hamstrings, but the chairs in the Volusia Square Mall really suck!” I added.

With this detailed acknowledgement, the newly discovered Suave Syndrome vanished from the New England Journal of Medicine. In its place, the same observations have come to be known at the local dermatology clinic as the Volusia Square Mall Fatted Calf Syndrome, a rare set of symptoms guaranteed to vanish from the face of the earth, depending upon the fatted calf, within an hour, give or take 30 minutes.

In order to get a detailed look at exactly what Dr. Suave was examining, I replicated the earlier hamstring stretching exactly, and took a picture of the fatted-calves as a result. From the picture in bright sunlight, it is clear that Dr. Suave witnessed two anomalies, one on each leg. It would appear that the initial ‘prominent structure’ to which he referred is on the right leg, which was never specified. The nearly vertical structure in the middle of the right calf is most likely from the underlying muscle structure. It is also evident in the left calf, but not nearly as clearly revealed in the sunlight. It is an anomaly that might raise some legitimate questions, like the removal of veins from the legs.

The grid produced on the left calf was from compression of that leg down upon the surface of the chair. As may be seen, this structure appears on the opposite leg, suggesting that there were two unusual, and unexplained subcutaneous findings, which should be thoroughly understood. The grid structure on the left is readily explained, but in the subdued light of the examining room an hour or more later, was undoubtedly only faintly visible.

Through this experience, I discovered that my wife’s observations about Dr. Suave, from her one visit, were smack on target. From my one visit, Dr Suave was able to tease out irrefutable evidence of my personal behavior simply by examining the back of my calves. And, – he is the only person who ever got it right, – without jumping to mistaken conclusions about the origin of my fatted calves. Subsequently, Dr Suave and his attractive assistants removed the unsightly blemish on my arm, and innumerable skin-tabs, and in the process renewed the exterior surface of this aged and weather-beaten old fossil until my skin was as smooth as a newborn baby’s bottom.

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