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There is some cramping pain and a trickle of blood. I am in the swimming pool toilets at the French campsite. I am on holiday with my husband, children and parents and had only found out about the pregnancy last week. And then the bleeding stops, but the nausea continues. I’ve hidden the pregnancy from my parents and now I am trying to hide the possible miscarriage. In the evenings I sip my wine, then pass the rest of the glass to my husband, somewhere between hope and despair.
I try to make a GP appointment from the ferry home, but there are none the next day, except for emergency slots that I might be able to get if I phone first thing tomorrow.
‘One with the F2?’ says the receptionist.
‘Yes, that’s fine,’ I reply.
She smiles shyly, as she calls me into her room.
‘I recognise you, you’ve taught me, I’m really nervous now.’
She hasn’t seen someone with a suspected miscarriage before, so I tell her what to do, but whatever euphemism you use for the Early Pregnancy Unit, for me, it may as well be called the miscarriage clinic, because I’m a veteran.
She calls her trainer in (I’ve taught her too) and we all sit there chatting and grinning, which is what always happens when you exceed the critical mass of more than one medic in any situation. I’m not behaving like a proper patient and they don’t really know how to behave like doctors around me.
And neither does the gynaecologist, who I end up seeing. First, he uses lay language, explaining everything in Mickey Mouse terms, so I explain who I am and then he oscillates to the other extreme and I don’t have a clue what he’s talking about because I haven’t done undergraduate obstetrics for nearly 20 years, but I just nod and pretend that I do, because I don’t want to back track and look like an idiot.
There are other couples in the waiting room, looking anxious. I wonder if they think I am a single mum, but the reality is that my husband has taken the other two to the zoo. ‘Can you have another baby, Mummy?’ they ask. And I don’t want to tell them anything about this because there probably isn’t anything there at all.
I’m not worried about being in the hospital environment that I’m so familiar with, after all, I work here, it’s like home from home. I’ve seen friends and colleagues as patients and they’ve seen me because it’s unavoidable. But it’s clear that interactions with other doctors are different to normal patients. Perhaps we are a little bit more familiar with one of our own? We are all part of the same thing, whichever side of the desk we are sitting. Perhaps we make assumptions that they know more than they do?
And then the gynaecology nurse tells me that they want to take me to theatre for a suspected ectopic, but I’ve only put two hours on the car and the others are still at the zoo and I burst into tears.
Melody Clarke writes under a pseudonym
Very difficult being a patient as an experienced doctor with more experience sometimes than a specialist consultant who has no experience of the wider picture.And when you feel you want to be the patient they expect you to understand ( as you are a medic) the pitfalls of their procedures and be tolerant of the challenges they face working in the NHS. I have experienced this first hand in orthopaedics and was frustrated with and appalled at the care I had. I would have treated my patients better than I was treated which was difficult to swallow. The result was sadly life changing and resulted in the loss of my profession. Consultants need to listen really carefully especially to doctors.
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