Sunday, 30 May 2010

A Very Sensible Man

I went to visit one of my elderly ladies this afternoon. These visits are meant to cheer them up and provide a little relief in an otherwise rather lonely day.
I usually take the dog along with me, he is well-behaved and provides a small focus to get them away from talking about their failing health.

Conversation is limited, I try to introduce some local gossip, ask for news of friends and family, and find out who, if anybody, has visited them.

Marjorie is in her mid to late eighties, not very well and mobile only with assistance, but otherwise bright and as cheerful as somebody in her situation can be.

Asking after their health is a must, and I always prepare myself for a long tale of woe.

But today Marjorie had a very unexpected tale to tell. She recently had a spell in hospital, one of several in the last eighteen months. She has been complaining throughout that time that nobody will tell her what’s wrong with her and she’s been getting quite cross with the medical and nursing professions.

A few days ago a doctor, a locum filling in while her regular Practitioner was away, made a house call.

“I see that you have been asking for information on what’s wrong with you”, he said to Marjorie.

“Yes”, said Marjorie, “I don’t know why nobody will tell me anything. It’s as if nobody has been able to make a diagnosis”.

The doctor looked at Marjorie, considered for a moment, and then pulled several sheets of paper from his bag.

“My dear, I have here a list of things we think are wrong with you, let me read it out to you”.

Which is what he did, starting with minor ailments and progressing to more important ones. He finished with the first sheet and was about to turn over and continue, when he looked up and asked,

“Do you want me to go on? Or shall I just tell you what is wrong with you?
The fact of the matter is, that old age has caught up with you, your body is wearing out. AND THERE IS NOT A DAMN THING I CAN DO ABOUT IT !
So you might as well accept it and make the most of what you have left.”

When Marjorie told me this story she was beaming with pride, and oddly gratified. “You see”, she said to me, “He sized me up, he decided that I could take it, he just went ahead. Now I will stop worrying, I will do as much as I can and stop fretting about what’s beyond me. I’ll rest when I need rest and sleep when I want to. I’ll eat what I can, when I can and enjoy it while I can.”

“And I’ll tell you something else”, she added, “I am really quite relieved”.

It actually showed, she looked a lot better than she has done for weeks.


  1. Great! This is almost like saying 'If you don't give it a name, is doesn't exist!' Wonderful way to look on the bright side, I'd say, and could be the answer to many a dilemma. Reminds me of Pollyanna...

  2. This reminds me, so much, of my late grandmother. She used to get really cross with the medics if they started pussy-footing about with their diagnoses.

  3. The power of truth delivered with compassion and a little dose of humour!!

  4. Oh hoorah for Marjorie and for her doctor! Please give Marjorie my very best good wishes and admiration!

  5. Hello Friko, I have been having server problems (that's what's been wrong with me!) and have just now had the treat of catching up with your wonderfully varied recent posts.

    May I praise that brilliant poppy? What a burst of glory.

    And may I also praise Marjorie and that wise doctor. And also you, for connecting.


  6. I want to be like Marjorie when I'm a really old lady - and I hope I'll have a physician just like that one. Even when the diagnosis is something other than old age, it's best to know the truth so that one can get on with things.

  7. Nothing like a bit of straight-talking. Most people know when someone's hiding information anyway. It's worse not knowing.

  8. What a treasure that lady must be. Friko, that poppy pic is stunning!!

  9. Hot damn, what a great story! I want that doctor.

    Last night while at dinner with my AC friend, she related the story of her BIL, a doctor who had fallen off a roof and suffered brain damage. Not enough to stop practicing medicine, but enough to have lost the 'filters' that usually stop people from saying exactly what they think. He lost a lot of patients after that, as he would tell them flat-out - 'you're too fat' - why they were unhealthy.

  10. Yes! Yes! I know just how Marjorie feels. Tell me what the situation is and let me learn to deal with it. Having that knowledge is like having the key to a door to a new way of thinking and being.

    And good for you for doing that visiting. A star in your heavenly crown for that.

  11. As you say, a sensible man - and a sensible patient. It's the not knowing what's wrong that's so worrying. Once you've got the diagnosis you can choose to ignore it or do something about it.

  12. Jinksy - but he did give it a name - 'Old Age', which we all know is incurable.

    Martin H - Most intelligent people prefer to be told the facts.

    Bonnie - truly a sensible man. I hope he comes to me too.

    Vicki Lane - thank you Vicki, i certainly will. Marjorie will be pleased.

    Frances - thank you on all three counts. I hope you'll be going for a walk again soon.

    Pondside - yes indeed, my thoughts exactly.

    Fran - another sensible person, I wouldn't have expected anything else of you.

    Twiglet - thank you very much, Twiglet.

    Deborah - If you are unhealthy because of some bad habits, you probably don't want to be reminded. It is so much easier to blame glands! Or genes, or something.

    June - The old ladies can be fun, it is not entirely selfless on my part. It's the ones who moan all the time who are hard to take.

    WIAR - Nice to see you back. btw, choosing to ignore a diagnosis would be rather foolish, don't you think?

  13. That was a good thing for me to read, just today I'm not feeling quite up to par, and I need to remember that most likely it's just my age catching up with me. Marjorie is a good example to me.

  14. Dear old Marjorie - that story did me a power of good!

  15. Now that is what I call a good doctor. I would always want to have it given to me straight.

    Thank you for your visit and your lovely comment.

  16. 20th Century Woman - Sorry to hear that you haven't been so well today. Perhaps you are just feeling a bit tired after your hectic travelling. I'd be out for a week.

    mollygolver - these old ladies are tough.

    Moannie - Me too, definitely.

  17. Hi Friko

    Sometimes doctors feel that they have been invested with God like qualities and that they have certain rights that override those of the patient.
    In Japan where my daughter lives it is common practice not to tell the family member that they are seriously ill or dying. I think this is very wrong. The patient is denied an opportunity to do what is needed to be done.

    happy days

  18. brava to You, and excellent tale of truth & living!
    My dream is to open an adult daycare and dogs will definitely be part of it!

    But as an American I must ask: what is a house call?

    Aloha from Waikiki, Friend

    Comfort Spiral

  19. Delwyn - I didn't know that about Japanese doctors; I would find it absolutely essential to put my house in order, metaphorically as well as literally. How can you not want to say goodbye?

    Cloudia - A doctor makes a house call, i.e. visits the patient at home, when the patient is not well enough to attend the surgery (practice rooms), like when they have just left hospital, are in great pain, or an emergency arises.
    Here in the UK we have that luxury, free on the NHS (National health Service).

  20. Excellent ! A doctor that treats one as a sensible adult who has an interest in living as comfortable and enjoyable a life as possible and can make sensible choices , given one's circumstances .
    Good for Marjorie , she'll relax and enjoy each day as it comes , just as she should . May she have many more !

  21. This sounds like a great doctor... letting her know that she has the incurable but manageable disease of old age. I think too often people.. and doctors among them, forget that they elderly can think for themselves and make their own decisions in many cases.

  22. Such a damn shame that those in health care cannot be honest! Great post, with insight into being a good health care practitioner. Good for you for visiting. I am a Hospice Volunteer and enjoy my clients.

    My parents denied their aging bodies until the end. Here in Muskoka, they are having to restrict visitors in both the hospital (C. Difficile) , and the LTC facility (respiratory illness) due to health issues.
    In Toronto (G20), and in the Huntsville hospital (G8) there are going to be restricting admissions with the visitors we anticipate. I hope we don't have riots.

  23. Hi Friko, I would like to think that my doctor would handle my request for information in the same manner both now and in the future. I am sure that the people you visit appreciate you. Love the poppies.

  24. ein weiser Mann, denn wie selten weiss man die rechten Worte im rechten Augenblick zu äussern!
    Versuche ganz bestimmt, Dich regelmässig hier zu besuchen, liebe Ursula!
    (habe mich sehr über Deine mail gefreut und antworte in den nächsten Tage)
    Liebe Grüsse

  25. Your post rings true for me in that my mother in law is suffering from Alzheimer's. Her complaints are many and yet according to the optometrist, the dentist, and the doctor she's healthy as can be. I remember my father as he aged put it this way... "I'm in rare shape for the shape I'm in". he was very tall and when he started having difficulty getting out of his chair he would say"It's a long ways up from down!" You are very kind to visit the elderly and to listen to their concerns.

  26. S&S - Do you know, I think she might relax enough to prolong her life pleasantly.

    Hilary - that is so true, I notice it a lot. If you are hard of hearing or your eyesight is failing, you are treated as if you were an idiot. God forbid that she might be slow and get in the way.

    Jenn - Hospital bugs are on the rise here too, and frequently wards have to be shut, in order not to spread infection. Thank you for trying me again.

    Carla HR - On the whole, 'my' old ladies are happy to see me although I can do little of practical value for them.

    Renee - Sehste, Weisheit kommt nicht nur mit zunehmendem Alter, es gibt auch Leute, die schon frueh den richtigen Weg gehen.

    Sheila - Your Dad sounds to have been a cheery and very pleasant man. Alzheimer is the scourge of an ageing population. I find it very hard to visit the sufferers.

  27. A brilliant doctor, and a wonderful lady. She sounds like the "old ladies" my pastoral theology tutor recommended visiting to be cheered up on a bleak day. Thank you for sharing this.

  28. I missed this one first time around. Please send the name of that dear locum ASAP. I need him to give one of his talks to my F-I-L,who doesn't have a damn thing wrong with him other than old age and terminal crankiness and self-centeredness....See? A definite lack there of high-mindedness! But in my defense, he's a special case!


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