A Doctor’s Life
“You doctors’ think you’re Gods…”
I had gotten as far as an introduction before he’d made his claim. He had already met five of my kind, hating four and being indifferent to one. Admittedly she’d given him the analgesia the night before. But he was in pain again, and this time I stood in the firing line. Major surgery always has a difficult recovery period, and this was no different. I remained quiet.
“None of you care. Rich kids born into rich lives…”
My silence endured, allowing him the space to vent to his hearts content. A heart clearly yearning for empathy. In truth, I understood him; a man feeling lost in the large cogwheels of the hospital infrastructure already caring for over a thousand patients, a number steadily growing by the minute. The difficulty in this situation was he didn’t understand me.
Rich kid? I was born into a Council estate some thirty years ago, sheltered from whatever happened outside by the warmth of two loving parents. That shelter led me to the belief that George Clooney, Noah Wyle and ER were representative of medical care internationally. Grey’s Anatomy had yet to be conceived for the younger generation. That’s how my love of medicine started, but not too long later at medical school I understood the purpose of our profession.
The bright lights show pioneering surgery, medical advancement and superhuman feats from superhuman workers. But that was typically a tiny fragment of our workload. Our job is humanity. Understanding, contemplating and subsequently providing the best care we could. The best option to make lives just that little bit better. Our job is co-ordinating to produce a multi-faceted, multi-functional approach. Our job is to listen.
And therefore, I listened. I listened to his sadness and fears. I listened to his woes and worries. By the end, I understood he was simply a man afraid of the unknown, and tired from his own complaints. I sat beside him and begun to explain, firstly the stresses and stretches of the hospital, before proceeding to the nature of his surgery and the recovery period. This is what he wanted the most – time. Something free to provide, and yet hoarded by most. We addressed all of his questions together, coming up with a plan we were both happy with.
At the end he apologised, and I walked away smiling. I laughed thinking this scene would never air on any medical drama, and yet this was the entire meaning of medicine.