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Meeting a young co-patient

‘Hahaha! He’s going to give you an injection! Can I watch?’

When patients bring a friend or relative to their appointments, it usually adds an interesting dimension. There are supportive spouses, angry daughters-in-law determined to get the referral that the last doctor wouldn’t give, and neighbours who have been quietly doing unpaid social work for decades. Then, as I’ve just discovered, there are kids who are just hoping for a bit of gore.

As they take their seats, my patient explains to her that he doesn’t think he’ll get an injection. Her face falls. This is unwelcome news. No attempts to distract her with a book have any impact, and she sits there radiating sullen disappointment.

Taking the chance, I plunge in and take a history. There’s an interruption whilst I explain to my co-patient that, much as we’d love to let inquisitive children handle our scalpels, the killjoys at the CQC won’t allow it. She treats this with the contempt that such a namby-pamby outlook on life deserves, and the consultation stutters on under her glowering supervision. A couple of minutes later she gets up to investigate a cupboard. All the ones she can reach are empty, so good luck to her. As she flings the doors open and tuts at the lack of unsecured sharps, my patient and I make some progress.

‘So, it sounds like we need to do a couple of things,’ I explain over the clattering and sighs. ‘We’ll get an ECG done today, and I’ll ask for an echocardiogram – a scan of your heart that lets us see how it’s working.’

‘What’s an echo-what-he-said?’ asks a voice from inside one of the cupboards.

‘It’s to look at Granddad’s heart,’ my patient answers indulgently.

The young co-patient steps out from the cupboard door and gazes at me. I’ve never seen such a look of unalloyed admiration.

‘Wow…’ she says breathlessly, still staring with adoration. ‘He’s going to cut out your heart! Granddad, I want to be a doctor…’

Dr Nick Ramscar is a GP in Bracknell, Berkshire.