On Doctors and Watermelons
Day 5 of the Challenge:
I first met Dr. V when I was 12 years old. He was a friend of a friend of the family and when he went away for the summer, I got asked to look after his budgies. I had never talked to the man in my life, but that June he gave me his house key, instructions on what to feed the birds and left me in his kitchen. In September he returned and I gave him his keys back. The budgies had had an uneventful summer.
13 years later I found myself in his office, as a patient. I went to him to start an intravenous treatment that in all likelihood would trigger allergic reactions and/or other short term side effects. Being aware of the possibilities, I was unusually nervous that day. In response he asked me to sit on the exam bed in the middle of his office, set up my iv, had a nurse to sit next to me and then called his next patient in.
I observed all the consults of the day. I watched as he told a middle aged woman she had lung cancer and heard him speak to her oncologist on the phone after she left. I was there when he advised an elderly gentleman on what to do for a recurrence of his bone cancer. At some point he got a watermelon out of his fridge and cut it up. He shared it with the nurse, myself and with yet another patient, a young lady who came in clutching her CAT scans in violently shaking hands. Relatives and friends of mine randomly came in the office through the day to bring me food or keep me company. A good friend who happened to be a well known theatre actor at the time, even offered his opinion on treatment options for a patient during her consult, before signing an autograph for her. He brought souvlaki with him, so this surreal experience became even more so with pots of tzatziki and aubergine salad around us and the smell of gyros permeating the clinic office.
By the time I went home that night, the possibility of complications and reactions from my treatment was the last thing on my mind. Even now my memories of the day are only of the stories I had the privilege to bear witness to.
I haven’t seen Dr. V in years. And yet he is the first doctor I call when I have a problem. I have met many specialists through the years, some good, some bad. I’ve also come across a handful of truly excellent physicians, people who have dedicated their working lives to research and clinical practice.
What I have only encountered in V. is a person with such an unorthodox way of making patients feel like they are part of a family, visiting him only for a chat. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t he doesn’t deal with the medical side of a patient’s issues in a serious way, he does. But when I call him, it’s not for his medical expertise. It’s for his humanity. And that’s not a small thing to have in a world and a profession where humanity is sometimes seriously lacking.
So today I am grateful for Dr. V. and for his unique creativity and empathy!