‘Come on Lesley, say hello.’ A small plastic hand is tentatively extended towards mine. And just like that, I’ve met my fifth gorilla.
Mrs B is one of those patients who you’d have to call a ‘heartlift’. A surgery with her in it always goes better than one without. Originally from a central European country that spawned a rather nasty corporal, she left as soon as he got into power, and has been voyaging around like a Graham Greene character ever since. She’s a 90-something year old yoga fanatic, and pootles all over town doing errands for people ten years her junior who ‘can’t get out of the house, the poor old dear’.
Whenever we meet, every month or two, her handbag’s keychain is sporting a different toy gorilla. They usually poke their faces around the doorframe before she gets into the room, and then there’s a brief ceremony of introduction. It’s brilliant every time.
She’s also fabulously dismissive of all the QOF-inspired things I throw her way, gleefully declining everything that the computer thinks she should take. I mentioned a flu jab once, and got a grimace from her and a stern dressing-down from an orangutan.
As you’d expect, at her age a few bits and pieces are going wrong, but nothing too drastic, and nothing that will stop her from getting on with things. She doesn’t want to be medicalised; she’s enjoying her life too much. She wants her doctors to be there to sort out symptoms, and to have some fun whilst doing so.
In short, she’s a bit of an inspiration, and a reminder that there’s more to life than medicine. She’s a reminder that one of the best things that we can do in a clinic, for ourselves as much as anyone, is to prevent people from becoming patients.
Dr Nick Ramscar is a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire