I'm continuing to read 'A fortunate man' which describes the life of an English country GP in the 1960s. I've been aware of the book since training as a GP nearly 40 years ago, but have never sat down to read it. In retrospect I think that if I am honest the traditional, all consuming practice of medicine which is described in the book, and which I was faintly aware of, was what inspired me in a rather simplistic but genuine way when I first remember wishing to become a doctor at the age of 15 years.
The GP Gavin Francis, who is also a published author (his fascinating book Adventures in human being is well worth a read) , writes in the forward, that the book describes, 'a celebration of a way of medicine that we have all but lost'. I'm very aware of that as I come to my last few days as a partner in general practice. So many of the memories that patients have shared recently with me have been of experiences which current GPs seldom if ever know.
And so a lady told me that 25 years ago when I was visiting her after the birth of her twins, I apparently welcomed the twins into the world and said to them that I hoped that in some small way they would make the world a better place. We no longer have the time (nor inclination`) to visit postnatally. And yet the mother still recall my words!
And then the old lady reminiscing with me of the time when I attended her husband in the middle of the night after he had died and stayed with her to drink a cup of tea and just sit and be with her for an hour. Now the patient's own GP virtually never visits at night.
And then the former neighbour who recalled that she asked me to have a look at her breathless baby one cold winter's evening, and tells me that I packed both her and the baby in my car and drove straight to the hospital. Now sadly we would be worried about insurance and liability, we would probably call an ambulance (and what anxiously for it too arrive whilst the baby deteriorated).
Gosh how things have change. Alas GP is less fun, less passionate, less personal and more beurocratic. No wonder the number of medical students wanting to be GPs is down. If only they could hear just a few of these sweet nostalgic stories my patients are generously recounting to me in my final days, they would realise just what a fortunate man I am and how still, if they are willing to buck, the trend it could yet be for them.
Just look at what others think of this small masterpiece
Tuesday, 21 February 2017
I've been meaning to read this book for a long time and its looks as though I'm going to finally get round to it. In many ways I think I can identify with the GP described. Yep I too have been a lucky man.
I was reminded of this when I saw a patient last week. She told me that there was something she needed to discuss and that there was no-one else that she could think of with whom she could talk. OK it wasn't strictly speaking a medical problem although I suppose that there was a loose connection. And so, hesitatingly she began.
I cannot go into the details, but suffice to say that it was a deeply personal matter that was bringing her both great joy and great sadness. What should she do? I certainly didn't have a quick fire answer and no textbook would have helped. It was just one of those situations where one felt both enormously privileged and humbled that someone should regard you worthy to pour out their hearts
As I reflect upon it I can't help but wonder whether GPs in the future will know something of the special experiences that my patients have granted me. Sharing their deep sorrow and joy and all that goes between. I'm saddened to hear that GPs are increasingly striving to see fewer and fewer problems, regarding more and more consultations as rather trivial and somewhat beneath them. And hence the drive for 'alternative health practitioners' to take up the slack. My career would have been much the less without the many and varied 'non medical' problems brought to me. I hope I have helped in some small way.
Monday, 6 February 2017
A good friend recently suggested that Avalon Sunset was one of Van Morrison's best albums. Now he's released some 35 and I can't claim, to know them all well, but it is lovely, and one of his most 'spiritual'. One constant feature though of his albums is what one author has called the 'Poetry of the ineffable'. Blimey, sounds a bit fancy, what can the author mean? Well here's a brief go...
He certainly doesn't fit into neat categories, and would not identify with any one religion, although his lyrics often contain very overt Christian content. And what is this 'ineffable'?
'the ineffable. By its very definition it's a slippery word, one that is impossible to pin down by creedal statements or doctrinal catechisms, but Morrison has offered a number of clues that outline its general contours. It's the lost sense of innocence and peace that he hearkens back to again and again in his songs about an idyllic childhood in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It's being fully alive to the moment, attuned to the sense of wonder that can break through on even the grayest and most banal of days.' http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/october-web-only/van-morrison-poetry-ineffable.html
VM often expresses deep longings that there must be more to this life than merely eating, drinking, going to work, raising families and doing all the other stuff which comprises human life. He's certainly a great exponent of human and romantic love, but also recognises that there is a 'greater love' that is available to all.
'there are dozens of songs, scattered throughout an immense and daunting catalogue, that speak of a life in search of God. There are moments of ecstatic bliss, of profound peace and assurance. There are moments of regret, of missed opportunities, of failure. "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God?" (from 1989's Avalon Sunset) is not only a representative song title, but also a lament that will sound familiar to any follower of Christ. On the same album, Morrison offers his most straightforward gospel affirmation:
Heals the sick and heals the lame
Says you can do it too in Jesus' name
And he lifted you up, and he turned you aroundAnd he put your feet back on higher ground
Never quench the quest for the 'ineffable'. Yep for many of us life is good, or even great (at least some of the time). And there is much satisfaction in human love. But that will only ever take us so far, and as VM would say, 'when will we ever learn' (from When will we ever learn to live in God)
Reach out for him, he'll be there
With him your troubles, you can share
Oh, you can use his higher powerEvery day in any hour' (ibid)
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