Monday, February 06, 2012

In memory of our doctor

Our family doctor died at the beginning of January. He was in his mid 70's and may have been battling something for some time, but to me his death was sudden, unexpected, and upsetting news. I was very fond of him.

About four years ago when we moved to our neighbourhood, our postcode wasn't (bizarrely) associated with any of the NHS surgeries in the area. Having a small child it was imperative to have some sort of medical connection, so I wondered along to the nearest pharmacist and asked him for a list of doctors in the area. And there I found our doctor, who had a private practise which he ran from his home, literally a block from us.

I went for an initial meet and greet consultation and was received in a beautiful wood panelled study with Persian rugs on the floors, original paintings and books everywhere - kind of what I imagine a classic Freudian psychoanalysts' office to look like back in the day. Our doctor, a handsome older man with sparkling eyes that expressed a sharp intellect and equally sharp wit, was immaculately dressed in a beautifully cut suit, which I would come to learn was his standard dress.

Over the years he became a life-line and safely guided me through the various illnesses my children experienced, always being available to see me within an hour or two of a call, and coming to the house when I couldn't leave it. On one occasion my husband was travelling and I was at home with both children, my son still a small baby. My daughter had a temperature of 42 degrees Celsius and was hallucinating - which, being my first experience of a temperature this severe with a child, was thoroughly frightening. It was 2am and I called him and he told me how to cool her down and then arrived a half an hour later (beautifully suited) and stayed with me until her temperature started to come down. Despite the late or rather early hour and his age, he never once grumbled or complained, instead he was good humoured and comforting, assuring me, 'I haven't lost one yet,' and told me about his days as a young doctor in training to take my mind off of things.

The last time I saw him was by chance. He was walking down the high street with his wife, in that lovely formal arm in arm fashion - both of them beautifully dressed en route to dinner perhaps, or a concert, and I was slogging my way up the hill with both kids in the pushchair. He smiled and we exchanged greetings. I remember feeling under dressed, but then one always felt that way by comparison.

I attended his funeral which was so full to capacity that people had to stand at the back. There I learnt that he was dedicated philanthropist - fund-raising for oncology clinics in Poland, that he was central to campaigning for the Polish Armed Forces memorial that was erected at the National Arboretum, and that, like me, he loved Chopin. I am reminded of an occasion where, after seeing him in his consulting room, he took me to his dining room which looked out onto a lovely garden, showing me a statue of an angel I think it was, that one of his patients had bequeathed to him. I told him I thought it was a thing of beauty, to which he smiled and said, 'I know it is, that's why I showed it to you.'

I remember thinking at his funeral, that he personified someone that evidently loved, appreciated and enjoyed beautiful things and correct form, and yet he was also so very hands on in making a difference in the world for a lot of people. That the two didn't have to be mutually exclusive. I was so very sad and at the same time I left feeling inspired by the life he had led.

I didn't know him personally, but I felt that he touched my life and those of my family in a personal way, which I suppose was another lovely character trait of his. I will always remember the advice he gave me on how to care for my children when they were unwell, his kindness, his humour, his anecdotes, and above all his genuine care and concern for my family and I.

A lovely man that will be greatly missed.