It was a busy morning at work, but I had to get to the doctor. The situation was bordering on dire and I couldn’t put it off any longer.
I phoned the GP rooms on the level below the newspaper office where I worked and asked if they had anything available that morning – with anyone. I didn’t care who, I’d take whomever they had and please hurry. Thankfully there was a 10.30 slot, and I was welcome to it.
I looked up from my waiting room magazine as my name was called to see a very pleasant young man standing in the doorway smiling expectantly at me. As I followed him down the corridor and took a seat in his office I came to the stark realization that this pleasant young man really was young. Like, young. This fully qualified family physician sitting opposite was YOUNGER THAN ME.
Doctors are always older, right? Older and wiser? I mean, that’s always how I’ve viewed doctors. It takes a long time to be a doctor, so it stands to reason that they’re all older than me – and now suddenly they’re not. This young man would have at least spent 10 years minimum becoming qualified after finishing high school, and as he sat before of me waiting patiently for my ailment, my poor brain scrambled to realize that this would be my new reality. As a 30-year-old at the time, I was going to have to get used to not being the youth of today, but instead going to the youth of today to solve my problems. And probably then telling them to get off my lawn.
He seemed slightly nervous, but capable. Friendly. Perhaps a little shy. I considered making up an illness to spare us both the embarrassment, but instead I took the plunge and figured if I was cavalier about my condition and acted like it wasn’t an issue, then it might put him at ease. I gave him a big smile and announced: “I have thrush”.
He was so good about it. Pretended like he heard ladies with thrush talking all day every day and took charge like a boss. Knew all about the medication, the contraindications with my current pregnant state, and what else I could do to get things sorted. I mean, when a GP has to be familiar with on average 22,000 different illnesses (as well as patient medical history), you’re bound to be in good hands even if those hands look like they fingerpainted only last week.
He actually reminded me slightly of the time I went for my first pap smear and the lovely doctor administering it was more nervous than I was. The last pap smear I had was with my local GP here in Melbourne and she was so gentle I felt compelled to thank her and declared it the best pap smear I’d ever had. She laughed.
I’ve moved around a lot and therefore never really been loyal to one doctor for very long, but I’ve always had such caring, thoughtful service. From the lady who always wore rainbow tie-dye and who helped me through the process of becoming a mother (she once said I was more than likely going to have a “bog-standard pregnancy” and I was oddly comforted), to the Indian fellow who reached out to put a consoling hand on my shoulder when one of the pregnancies had a rough start, and who even gave me some recipes from his homeland when he found out I was vegetarian – the doctors I’ve seen across Australia have been incredible.
Ok so there was this one very brusque little Chinese lady who always made me feel like I’d been called to the principal’s office, and who once barked at me during an exam: “you have very lumpy boobs”, but I found her on the whole rather reassuring as I figured she wouldn’t bullshit anybody. She was take-charge, no-nonsense, and healed you up good and proper and that illness better not come back or it would have her to deal with.
There was the doctor who diagnosed a broken wrist on sight 30 years ago (my doubtful mother who thought it was just a sprain asked skeptically “how do you know?” and he answered “I’m a doctor”), the GP who told me about gut health and dietary impacts on one’s immune system years before it was internet cool, the guy with the great hair who kindly told me I’d done a wonderful job breastfeeding my baby into toddlerhood and I shouldn’t feel guilty for weaning. Each of them see hundreds of patients each year, and still manage to make an impact on people every day.
They see things I couldn’t even bear to look at even with my squinty eyes, work long hours, and have to have so much knowledge. They’re your first point of contact for everything, and are also there for huge medical decisions people have to make. About 90% of GPs are with Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, so you know they never stop learning.
I for one are extremely grateful for the work they do and the care they provide my family, and I’ve no doubt a lot of you are also.
Do you have a lovely GP story? I (and I’m sure they!) would love to hear it. Have you had the same doctor all your life? Get a great pap smear? And when did you realise you were old?!