I was the new doc in a small country town. I wanted to be accepted. I wanted to do best for my new patients.
She was the town matriarch. She had multiple chronic illnesses. She had the power to make me or break me.
I had suggested that she sees a specialist in the city. I wanted to make sure she was on the right treatment. I didn’t know the specialist. I hoped that he would treat her well. I wanted his care to represent an extension of my care.
She came back to see me after the visit to the city. She was still on the same treatment.
I was keen to know how the specialist had treated her. I asked her about this.
She said that he was the best doctor she had ever seen.
I asked her why.
She pensively gazed down at her hands. She gently held her right hand in her left hand. She slowly ran her left thumb over the tips of the fingers of her right hand. She appeared to be in a trance. She said, as she continued to explore her own hands as if for the first time, “Before he examined me…..he…..he just looked at my hands…..for a really long time…..it was amazing.”
I paid attention to her story. I paid attention to the way she told her story. I was affected by her story. I was affected by her telling of the story.
I remember her story, thirty years later, as I look at my patients’ hands before I examine them. I am reminded each time of the need for respect prior to further laying on of hands.
I learn so much about my patients as we share this silent moment.
I wonder what they learn about me. I wonder if they think that I am the best doctor they have ever seen. I wonder if they find it amazing.
I am grateful to the town’s matriarch.
I think that she may have been the making of me.
Lennox Head, New South Wales