I’m sitting in the waiting room of an outpatient’s department.
I am an outpatient. I sit on a chair, with my coat still on, because it is chilly and I try and stop myself from nodding off. I have forgotten my book and my phone has no signal, so I am largely unsuccessful and find my head bobbing as I fail spectacularly to keep my eyes open. I have not long finished nights and I have not quite rejigged my sleep pattern. I know why I am tired, but I still wonder what those around me must think about this millennial, falling asleep in a waiting room in the afternoon.
An hour passes and I know it is because the clinic has been booked for both a consultant and his registrar, but the registrar is alone and the consultant has an operating list. I wonder why the clinic was booked this way, when the operating list was most likely foreseeable, but at the same time feel content to wait, because despite this obvious pressure, the registrar appears to be giving every single patient a reasonable amount of time and I know that when it is my turn I will be grateful for that.
An elderly lady sits down in the chair beside me. She looks to be at least 80, is wearing a nice thin knit jumper, some tailored trousers that are just the right length for her height and she has white hair which has definitely been freshly set. She has gold-rimmed glasses around her neck on a chain and a black leather handbag over her arm. She has come with somebody who is clearly her daughter, herself in her 50s and a man who I think is her son-in-law. He excuses himself to go and buy a paper and a coffee while they wait.
The lady chats about current affairs. She talks to her daughter about what she thinks about the recent conviction of a British citizen for apparently trafficking tramadol. She speaks about the social health care crisis. She explains to her daughter why the newspaper reporting that the NHS is getting heaps of cash from parking is grossly misleading. She speaks to her daughter like any other well-informed and capable adult, and none of this is surprising to me. Then her daughter asks, ‘shall I come in with you, mum?’
And her mother pauses before replying: ‘Well, if I take someone in with me, they’ll immediately just talk to you and not me, you see.’
And her daughter doesn’t disagree with this observation. She says not to worry, that she can bring in the list they have already made of things she wants to cover, and go in by herself.
And this well-informed most obviously capable lady says ‘yes, ok’, and then she pauses again as if her confidence has faltered.
And after a moment she adds: ‘I guess you better come in with me anyway.’
By the Secret Doctor
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I deal with GEM patients most of the time. I'd really try to give more attention to patient rather than relative.
Beautiful write up. I would say I do not fall into this position when seeing elderly patients, but this will make me even more aware in case I subconsciously do this.