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Dr Ximena Recabarren: The real face of general practice

On the face of it a lady comes

Well dressed with a sore throat

But it’s her eyes that I note

Are not quite right, tearful.

She cares for her anorexic niece

Who is once again critically ill.

A sense of helplessness.

She needs to talk.


His face is always jolly

A cat and a cylinder by his side.

Two prongs befriend his nose

Offering him life-saving ‘air’.

Every morning he counts out 32 tablets

Bearing his heart, chest and joint disorders with spirit.

He only has a few months.


Her father suffered from it.

She saw him deteriorate

Slowing down

Sometimes to a stop

His hand rattling

His face drained of vitality.

She recognised the symptoms

Her shaky hand and her walking

Anxiously she goes to speak to her GP.


Thank you so much

Comes a note

From a mother of a 3 year old boy.

A cold that wouldn’t shift and looking for antibiotics

But there were some red dots on his back

And his face moon pale.

He was sent to hospital


Most likely it will be curable.


Her face sparkles

As she hears the little heart beat

She will become a mother soon.


He wants to know

He wants to know now.

Is there any news from his scan

Has the cancer spread further?

I can imagine his face, his phone against his ear.

No, I tell him. It’s all stable.

We will see you next week.


At first his face gave nothing away

One of defiance

‘I am fine but my partner made me come’.

Over time the barriers came down

Revealing an early life of care homes and rejection.

Alcohol had been his medicine.


These are but a few that make up the face of general practice.


Dr Ximena Recabarren is a GP in Edinburgh