Just over 11 years ago I had surgery. I don’t want to over dramatise as it wasn’t life threatening but it was a big deal for me. I had a longish recuperation period and it had ongoing significance for some aspects of my life.
The doctor who treated me was an intelligent, compassionate, warm and witty woman. She approached all of our interactions with good humour and patience. This sounds easy but, she needed every ounce of all of those virtues considering that I told her within two minutes of our meeting that, “I am the worst combination possible. A total hypochondriac and a librarian. I have far too much online access to Medline”. She told me she had seen it all and that some patients even brought in print outs from the Web with a diagnosis.
She was brilliant through the whole surgery, recovery and follow up period. I felt relieved and confident because she was very practical, honest and never dismissive. She was just a really great doctor which, I imagine, is as hard to achieve as it sounds simple and having a great doctor is an incredibly important thing when it is your health in someone else’s hands.
I was therefore shocked and sad when I learned that two months ago, she passed away. She was only in her very early 60’s. It seems hideously premature and very unfair as any death of someone in their early 60’s always is.
She should still be treating hypochondriac librarians and patients with their print outs. She should still be doing the thing that, judging by the photographs covering the walls of her consulting rooms, she really loved, delivering babies. She should be planning a well earned retirement and time spent with her family.
The last time I saw her, about 4 years ago, she told me that her children had bought her and her husband tickets to a comedy festival show. Due to their schedules, this was not something they did often and after they got dressed and were ready to leave, they realised the tickets were for the night before.
I don’t want to pretend I knew her at all. We had a normal doctor-patient relationship but I am incredibly sorry to hear of her passing. My condition was trivial in the scheme of medical conditions but it was important to me during that specific time. It was part of her job every day and she treated me using an expertise, good humour and compassion that I appreciated and that I really needed at that particular period in my life. I have never forgotten it and I will always feel grateful for her care.
Sometimes, it just seems important to reflect on the impact that people have in your life, even if they are people you don’t really know at all, and pay respect to it. It is just unfortunate that this opportunity is often associated with their passing.
Farewell to a really great doctor.