The nicest thing happened to me today and it's only Thursday! It was almost at the end of my afternoon clinic, towards the end of a busy day of treating patients in a clinic room so hot in this unseasonably warm weather I thought either I would melt, or my patient would! I saw this patient, Mrs H, several weeks ago for the first time in a few years, having treated both she and her lovely daughter before. Her daughter has since grown and left the area to carve her mark on the world of higher education, and I know she will go on to achieve incredible things.
Mrs H has had to face a difficult two or three years with her health; ill health, surgery, complications from surgery and rehabilitation, and I was saddened to hear this. She is SUCH a positive lady, with an infectious lust for life that it's hard not to leave an appointment with her without feeling elated just from being around her. So she handed me a bag and said "My daughter and I saw this while we were out the other day and we just knew we had to get it for you"! Ocasionally patients bring me tokens of their thanks, mainly at Christmas ( I blame them all for my increased waistline in January!), sometimes, like Wednesday, I was given two beautiful courgettes! So today I opened the bag brought in by Mrs H and unwrapped the red tissue paper and bubble wrap to find the most beautiful wall hanging. I hope my smile when I unwrapped it truly conveyed my joy and happiness that receiving this gift created. Tiny feet made from pebbles! I'm still smiling now looking at it, and I think you'll agree from the photo that it's fab?!
This got me thinking. What did I do to deserve such a wonderful gift from a lady I haven't seen for so long? Is it because I'm a good Podiatrist or because I'm committed to my patients care? I actually don't know, but just to know she and her daughter saw this gift and thought of me warms my heart.
Being a Podiatrist is great! I get to do all kinds of things every day to help patients who come to see me using the skills that I learned during my three year degree at university. It's satisfying relieving pain caused by a corn and hearing the words "I'm walking on air now", or resolving an ingrowing toenail of a young boy with autism who trusted me enough to treat his painful toe and even gave me a hug at his last appointment to show his thanks. For him that hug was feely given and not something, his mum tells me, he gives very often to anyone. My professional skills, using scalpel's, diagnosing foot problems, making insoles, cutting toenails, using anaesthetic, liaising with local GP's, checking the quality of pulses in the foot, providing information to patients with diabetes, helping with footwear choices for those feet difficult to fit into high street shoes, using the latest technology to treat stubborn verrucas and all the other clever things I can do make me a good Pod(iatrist).
Those things are all done alongside listening to my patients. Not necessarily listening to health complaints, but to if they've had a good day, if they're troubled about a trip to the hospital or about the health of a loved one. I listen to worries about old age, aches and pains, cancer treatments and family rifts or fallings-out. I comfort those who I've known for 15 minutes or 15 years who have recently lost a loved one or adult children caring for elderly parents with dementia and the emotional rollercoaster that brings. I give time to those who feel they're a burden on their family due to their increasing frailty, and reassure them that they are not.
I laugh at bad jokes and at the incredibly funny jokes told to me by my patients! I have the pleasure of talking about their younger days and the adventures they've had, including the naughty things they got up to in their teens (it's not just my generation who have had a good time, some of these patients invented the words "good times")! I talk to teenagers about exams and listen to their fears of doing badly, trying to reassure them that lower exam grades don't define their adult life, but might provide a new road to travel that may lead to exciting experiences. And I hope they feel happier and positive even if things don't turn out the way they'd hoped.
I send out cards to those who are feeling unwell, poignant verse or poetry to those who might appreciate the relevance and feel lifted by it dropping through their letterbox. I give my treatments with care and try to be as gentle as possible. I've always felt I should treat each visitor to my practice as if they were a member of my family (whom I love, a LOT, just in case you wonder!), giving them kind and compassionate treatment to the very best of my ability. I smile at everyone who visits, smiles are infectious and only a few can resist giving one back. I laugh, I discuss and I debate with my patients during their treatment. We talk; they are kind enough to ask after my family and what I've done since we last met. And sometimes, in moments when they talk about part of their life, a loss of a loved one or the journey of waiting to lose someone close to them, when their pain slips past and they can't hold the tears back any more, it's hard to use that scalpel because my eyes are glassy too. On rare occasions we have a cry together, we're both human and share a private moment of sadness. These things, I know with complete certainty, make me a great Podiatrist.
So I'm not just a Pod, I wear different heads during my day, a bit like Worzel Gummidge (but slightly better dressed....I think?!). I'm a friend, a confidant, a counsellor, a shoulder to cry on, an advisor, a teacher, a cheerer-upper and full of really useless information, until it's useful to someone! And I wonder if the gift of the tiny pebble feet I received today was because Mrs H knows I'm invested in her well-being, not just as her Pod, but as a human being who chose a caring profession because I genuinely care.