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‘I have a special ability to use my brain as a muscle’

Nigel is beaming from ear to ear, his face contorted into the kind of perversely ecstatic smile that has no real place in my consulting room on a Monday morning. 

‘You won’t believe it, doctor,’ he begins, and he’s absolutely right.  Since our first encounter a little over 12 months ago, I’ve approached everything that comes out of Nigel’s mouth with a healthy dose of scepticism.  ‘I can scarcely believe it myself’ he continues, piquing my interest – – one medical admission, two neurology opinions, and a dozen GP appointments later, could the penny finally be about to drop?

As Nigel goes on to summarise his most recent visit to the local tertiary centre’s über-neurologist, a Central European polymath with a special interest in ‘unexplained symptoms’, I quickly realise this isn’t the case.  I’m not quite sure what they told him, but Nigel’s new found understanding of his symptoms bears an eerie resemblance to the backstory of a third-tier comic book superhero.  Non-organic man, perhaps?

‘They’ve never seen anything quite like it,’ he tells me, visibly bursting with pride.  ‘Apparently I’ve developed a special ability to use my brain as a muscle. And when it gets tired, that’s what causes all my symptoms. The headaches, the visual problems, the numbness in my feet – it’s all down to muscle ache. They’re going to treat it with psychotherapy.’  Of course they are.

Unlike, say, Spider-Man, Nigel’s special talent confers him no tangible advantage in life, but he seems perfectly willing to overlook this minor inconvenience and is embracing his breakthrough diagnosis.  As I ponder the ethics of the situation, something breaks my train of thought.  It’s Nigel – he’s still grinning, in fact I’ve never seen him happier.

But there’s something else. We’re barely three minutes into the consultation and he’s getting up to leave.  It’s a minor miracle. I might even be able to justify a quick toilet break now.

Dr David Coleman is a GP partner in Conisbrough, South Yorkshire.

Pulse asked for talented GP writers to send us stories to inspire and amuse their colleagues, and we were bowled over by the quality of the entries submitted.

Nearly 30 GPs took the time to put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard – and entries varied from amusing tales from consultations to clinical dilemmas or political ideas about general practice or the NHS in general.