In my defence, a 12-hour day is enough for anybody. Discovering that a previously secret drawer stashed with chocolates had been found and ransacked didn’t help either.
And the phonecall seemed like one of those calculated to be a sort of divine test – a deliberately wishy-washy complaint, a patient who sounds basically well on the phone, but wants a home visit. Clearly this had been concocted by a malevolent, vengeful, Old Testament God of medicine, who had decided to smite me five minutes before the phones switched over and the out-of-hours service would have to field it.
I was pretty abrupt on the phone. I may even have stamped my foot as I typed up the phone call. There was definitely a whinging note in my voice as I asked the reception staff for a home visit report.
Things went further awry when I pulled into the patient’s estate. A gang of simply adorable children had noticed that there were three flakes of snow on the ground, and this had put them into festive mood. And what says festivity better than a ball of mud and stones thrown at a car?
So I stamped around in the dark, and eventually found her house. And of course, she was an absolute delight. Genuinely unwell, a completely appropriate call; she had done everything she reasonably could to avoid bothering anybody, and apologized between her rigors for being a nuisance.
As well as being lovely, she was a quiet hero, a single Mum looking after a severely autistic child and doing so with as little outside help as she could manage.
After a very humbling fifteen minutes, I stepped back into the cold. My shift was now over, but her invaluable work would carry on, feverish or not. And so it was in more pensive mood that I returned to the car, and I may even have smiled to see a further three mud splats across one side panel.
Dr Nick Ramscar is a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire