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'Doctor, my boyfriend is really a German bodybuilder called Bridgit'

Phil finds it’s a stressful business trying to look concerned at his emotional patient's personal troubles when he can’t keep a straight face.

Phil finds it's a stressful business trying to look concerned at his emotional patient's personal troubles when he can't keep a straight face.

I had a very stressful consultation today. Probably most consultations are stressful for the patient and I think we tend to forget this – even the most frequent fliers in our practices experience only a tiny fraction of the consultations that we do.

We can sail through 30 or 40 consultations a day without breaking sweat but going to see the doctor must be a bit of an event for most people. And some of them just can't hold their emotions in at all.

Even as my patient entered the door, the pressure cooker valve was starting to vent.

She flopped down in the chair and said something like: ‘I'm sorry doctor but I don't know where to start.'

I'm not absolutely sure about this, because she started the sentence on middle C and ended it somewhere around top E, and to be honest the last few words were only audible to dogs.

Her left hand jerked out and landed in my box of tissues, she grabbed a slack handful and immediately deposited a generous mixture of tears and snot into their midst.

And I'll be honest; my first thought was for my tissues. I buy them myself from the chemist next door. They are an indulgence I grant to my patients, and generally a box lasts about six months. Frankly I think one tissue per weepy consultation is fairly reasonable, and already this woman had used up about a dozen. But I kept my counsel.

Gradually the story emerged. I've known this patient a long time, and she's one of those confessional types so I'm fully au fait with her succession of wildly unsuitable boyfriends.

It seemed that the relationship with her latest squeeze, Michael, whose progress I had been following in a desultory fashion for the last few months, had gone pear-shaped in a spectacular fashion.

‘You won't believe this doctor,' she trilled, ‘but Michael is a woman!' She grabbed another generous handful of my tissues, but my interest had been engaged so I let it pass. For now. ‘Tell me more,' I encouraged her.

It turned out that Michael was in fact a German female bodybuilder. ‘I found her passport and she's really called Bridgit and she's on the internet and everything!'

Magnificently (in my opinion), I kept a stony face.

Rippled freak

Solemnly we put Michael's proper name into Google image search and up came pictures of this grotesque rippled freak in a minuscule bikini, holding up a trophy at the Bremen annual bodybuilding awards.

And I'll say this for my patient; I can see why she was taken in. Bridgit looks like a bloke, even down to the stubble and receding hairline. And this is where my stress kicked in. I really, really didn't want to find out how my patient had found out that Michael was a woman, and I really, really needed to laugh, but didn't feel I could.

I turned away and pretended to be typing stuff into the computer, but my shoulders were heaving. ‘You're laughing, aren't you doctor?' said my patient, and my number was up.

‘I'm afraid so, I can't help it,' I squeaked, probably sounding like Alvin out of the Chipmunks.

And thank God my patient started to laugh too in the midst of her tears.

As she left, she grabbed all the rest of the tissues, and I was left staring helplessly into the empty box. That's 99p I won't see again in a hurry.

Dr Phil Peverley is a GP in Sunderland

Phil Peverley struggles to hold back the giggles when his patients tells her emotional story

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