Fish and chips

Sure, job satisfaction isn’t always about what you get. I’m certainly not a GP for the money, working in an inner city practice which earns 2/3 of the average for my area. We don’t have to worry about “declaring” expensive gifts at Christmas: most of our population are poor, homeless, immigrant and focussing on survival. Which is why on the occasions when we do get patients expressing their gratitude, it really is special.

Like my seafarer patient, in port for a few days, who was so grateful that he left my surgery telling me, “I’m going to bring you a bottle of whisky!” Sure enough, 10 minutes later he was back, a 25cc. bottle of Bells in his hand! Or an elderly farming couple who would not let you leave a housecall without two carrier bags of home-grown veg.

The particular patient I want to tell you about though is an elderly Mandarin speaking lady who visits me regularly. She speaks no English, is a practitioner of Chinese Traditional Medicine herself and has complex medical problems. Appointments are often tiring, always through telephone translation, often covering many issues and rarely taking less than 20-30 minutes. However, she always insists on leaving me something. Usually a bottle of juice, some dried fruit, sometimes fresh fruit, once a bottle of cheap red wine.

On this occasion she had made an urgent appointment with me to discuss a form she was struggling to complete. It needed me to fill some in so, recognising it was a council form, I took her to the council advice desk (which is conveniently on the other side of our waiting area), sat her down, explained what she needed and returned to my desk to sort out the form. A few minutes later I returned to find her … gone! The council advisor had no idea where. She had left all her things and just upped and left. Anyway, I left the form for her and returned to my list.

A few minutes later, whilst sat consulting my next patient,  there was a knock on my door and before I could respond the lady burst back in, placed a bag on my desk and showed me the form. “Read! Read!” she said. Not having time to get telephone interpretation to explain the etiquette of not bursting in on a private consultation I got up, took the form and indicated the address it needed to go to. “Here! Take here!” I said. She appeared to understand, bowed and turned to leave.

As she did so I picked up the plastic bag, noticeably warm and smelling of vinegar, to give to her. “No! You!” she says with a smile, pointing at my stomach.

As she leaves I turn and look at the poor patient in the chair, who seems completely bemused at what just went on.

“I guess I’m having fish and chips for lunch,” I tell him.

It is always nice to feel appreciated but especially so when people choose such interesting ways to express gratitude.

GP in Wales

  • James Thambyrajah
    Posted at 17:20h, 10 August Reply

    Loved this article – Thank you for sharing that a doctor -patient relationship can thrive regardless of our financial or cultural diffrerences!

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