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The English patient

27/06/2013 11:58 | Updated 26 August 2013
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The British are renowned for being rather reserved and stoic; our composed nature goes back many generations and it's difficult to change something so inherent. Not making a fuss, and absurdly even saying "thank you" when receiving an injection, no matter how the times are changing, I guess a part of me will always be the English patient.

I participate in a programme talking to student doctors in their first year at medical school, to enable them a glimpse and to better understand the life from the patient's perspective, suffering chronic disease. Speaking to the students I explained they will likely meet patients from all warps of life. Different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, rich and poor, patients who may never have been ill before, or others who are "old timers" like myself. Knowing how to deal with a variety of patients, a doctor requires valuable people skills and a great bedside manner. After years of studying, a doctor besides hopefully being a good diagnostician and practitioner, needs a lot of dedication for this is not simply a job, but a vocation, enduring long working hours, a salary that is often not in keeping with the work they employ, not to mention endless patience, empathy and understanding for their patients. The reward a doctor receives is mostly the satisfaction in regaining someone's health and quality of life, healing a patient and sending them home. This is ultimately what is hoped for, but in reality, it isn't always the case.

Patients who suffer any chronic, degenerative condition, should be seen on a regular basis by the same doctor, thus ensuring an on-going picture whereby the best care can be given. I think it must be incredibly difficult to continually show compassion towards a patient, whilst for self preservation keep a certain distance not allowing emotions to engulf and cloud the issue. When a doctor takes care of the same patient for years, it's only natural that some form of a relationship and connection is created, and I imagine it must be frustrating for a doctor when a cure and complete recovery for their patient is not possible. However, this is maybe where a patient having to endure years of suffering, needs the highest standards of care. Under the on-going care of a good doctor, the patient's well-being and quality of life can be improved drastically. Speaking as a chronic patient who has been ill since birth, and unfortunately, unless a wonderful miracle is lurking around the corner, the remainder of my life will be an endless stream of doctors and hospital visits. At least I am comforted by the fact that I couldn't wish for a better team of doctors who take care of me, for which I am eternally grateful.

When hospitalised, I find a special relationship is quickly formed between room mates out of necessity, that is like no other and cannot be replicated anywhere else. Thrown together at random; finding yourself in close quarters with a complete stranger, stripped not only of one's clothes, but any need of formalities or small talk. Even before introductions have been made and names exchanged, often the first words are: "What are you in for?" An unexplainable bond is involuntarily made within minutes, and the unwritten code of survival in hospital for room-mates goes into full swing. Each patient looking out for the other, as if about to venture into battle, watching each other's backs. This new friendship usually only lasts the entirety of the hospital stay, and all the extreme intimacies and honesty shared freely are not required or welcomed outside of the hospital confines. Having spent much time during my life in hospitals, this is an interesting phenomenon that I have come across time and time again.

I am very familiar, and dare I say it, "at home" with the strict routine an efficient hospital ward adheres to. Any nurse or doctor can within minutes realise my relaxed laid back disposition indicates I'm an old hand at being hospitalised. Appreciating the hard work and long hours that hospital staff endure each day, I am always cheerful, stoic, polite and a most patient patient! I guess wherever I travel in the world, I'll always be "the English patient"!

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