A good doctor is like an oasis when you’re lost and bewildered in an unfamiliar or forgotten landscape. He quenches your thirst, raises your awareness, and, like a mirror, reflects your natural design back at you, revealing that which you are sometimes unable or unwilling to see for yourself, despite the looking.
I’ve been recalled following a routine procedure. I want to know whether my cholesterol still registers high, thanks genes, and whether the Barambah organic full-cream milk I haven’t been able to resist recently is having an adverse effect on my insides. Clearly, the results aren’t favourable!
At the surgery, a week ago, the doctor I saw was gruff and distracted. Perhaps he was having a bad day, doctors are human too, but his bedside manner landed like a cold dead fish on my warm flesh. This morning, by a fateful stroke of genius, two doctors arrive simultaneously at reception, the bad guy and the unknown, and call my name. Automatically, I walk toward the unknown.
Kind doctors are hard to find. They have a way of drawing you out of yourself, of touching and exposing vulnerable inner places, those places that through practise and self-preservation I usually prefer to keep hidden. Good doctors choose their words with sensitivity, understand the wisdom of turning their chair toward the patient, understand that it’s their presence you crave. They have a way of intuiting the affectations of the patient’s heart, they ask the right questions, show empathy. In the space of ten minutes, I’ve disclosed more of my underlying self than in any conversation I’ve had in months. His kind blue eyes have searched and found me. His unwavering, unfidgetting presence gift me a truth and beauty I long for in those who are purported to care. At the end of the consultation, I dare ask to be bulk-billed as my work in disability support has been reduced to two days per week. With a genuineness I am immediately disarmed by, he nods and replies ‘Thanks for looking after the people’. It’s these simple words, the acknowledgement of the work I do, which I neither ask for nor expect, and which is so often unheard in the language of the 21st century, that bring me undone.
The day is grey when I step outside onto the sodden grass. The rain is relentless, the soak terminal. In the car, stripped of my defences and utterly unhinged, I am engulfed by tears. I had planned a quiet coffee, a scan of the newspapers, some socializing. There’s bills to pay, library books and DVDs to return, a work roster to check, phone calls to make. All this must wait. I need a horizontal space, some self-nurturing, and time.
Thank you good doctor. Hello skim milk!