He was so different from the rest. Often, the only patients I remember clearly in my mind are unfortunately those who make me sad or angry. I am writing this as almost some sort of memoir to my future self so that I don’t forget such a lovely man. A simple 15-minute routine consultation changed more than just the outlook of my day, it changed me. I can still picture his tan brown boat shoes, woolly jumper and wire-rimmed glasses framing his welcoming face. From the moment I called his name, there was something about him. Within a matter of seconds, we had connected.
He had constant pins and needles, and all that he needed was to think of a damaged wire, sparking and sending signals when it shouldn’t.
He had come to see me at the surgery that morning. He shared his story with me and I was trusted to gain such a thorough understanding of his life. He told me everything. He had questions, and I was able to give him the answers he needed to understand his body. He had had neuropathic pain for over 20 years and no one, not even the specialists, had taken the time to explain what was going on. I couldn’t believe that he had been in the dark for such a long period of time. I explained the problem to him with my trusted analogy of rusty, damaged wires. His face lit up as soon as I started talking. He told me that he was an electrical engineer by trade. We laughed among ourselves at the coincidence, but I could see in his eyes that he finally understood what was happening. He had constant pins and needles, and all that he needed was to think of a damaged wire, sparking and sending signals when it shouldn’t. He was so truly thankful, and I was taken aback by his gratitude. A self-acknowledged infrequent attendee who finally had the answers he needed, and all it took was a few minutes of my day.
When he shook my hand before his departure, it felt as if I had known this man for my entire life.
When he shook my hand before his departure, it felt as if I had known this man for my entire life, rather than just the past 15 minutes, as if we had been dear old friends catching up. We both said our sincerest farewells until we meet again. He made such an impact, and I am a better person, maybe even a better doctor-to-be, for our paths crossing.
I sat alone in the consultation room. I paused, just for a moment to reflect upon the contentment spreading through me. I couldn’t hold back the smile spreading across my face. The thought of a career in general practice had briefly entered my mind before, but until now, it was never a decision with much certainty. Now I know – this is how I want to spend my life. A career with the ability to truly know my patients on a one-to-one basis, a stranger enters the room but an acquaintance leaves, even in those pressured 10-minutes to be able to make a difference no matter how small.
This is why I am choosing general practice.
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