Friday 20 March 2020

Thought Picnic: How courtesy begets gratitude

Tough teachers in life
Having a sense of gratitude must always be one of the best expressions of our humanity. First, the humility to express it and acceptance from those to which it is directed can yield nothing but good. There are things I have taken for granted that were easily passé until adversity, infirmity, misfortune, disappointment, or regret gave me a wealth of experience I would have preferred to learn through easier means.
Yet, in life, they are all tough teachers, and the hope is whatever lesson is at the end of any experience is properly learnt and hopefully taught to others before they live through what you would rather not live through again.
Two amazing consultants
It must have been a kind of uncanny coincidence that earlier this evening, two consultants who have committed their expertise to my critical care tweeted within minutes of each other highlighting the work of their teams towards the Coronavirus pandemic.
The first, I met in September 2009 when I was diagnosed with a prognosis of 5 weeks if I was unable to respond positively to the regime of treatment that included gruelling chemotherapy that I took for 5 months. He was my consultant for a little over 3 years before I returned from The Netherlands to the UK.
The current, I met just about 3 years ago having been through a couple of consultants in London and then Manchester. When she introduced herself by letter, I did my research into her body of work and career in the UK and in South Africa, I was also able to glean such intimate detail about her personal life, all inadvertently online. Our first consultation left me probably more knowledgeable about her than she had readily studied from my notes.
Know your medical notes
In both cases, in fact, in all cases, I appreciate all the consultants that have been involved in the delivery of my care. I learnt that it was crucially important for me to know in detail everything about my condition, my treatments, areas of research, development and progress regarding my situation whilst being honest, forthright, and clear when talking about it with my consultants.
That did not come easily, my first consultant gave me that confidence because even as a professor of medicine, he took the time to explain the options for my treatment to me, printed out all the information I needed to know about the treatments, side effects and outcomes, listened to my concerns, actively taking them into consideration in the final decision process that I knew I had considerable influence in whatever direction my treatments would take.
The power of courtesy
My condition at the time of diagnosis was one of foolish negligence on my part, I was never judged nor condemned for it. It presented a rare opportunity for them to tackle a situation that medical science had satisfactorily caught up with and to students who were present at my consultations, it signified what a difference the knowledge and experience they eventually acquire to do in the future.
As a patient, I felt I had control because I was treated with respect, courtesy, and consideration. The freedom of expression and conversation between consultant and patient meant that we could easily discuss the medical issues as well as the broader life issues in a kind of holistic approach to patient well-being.
So, to my consultant in The Netherlands, I promised once the Coronavirus pandemic was over, I was going to visit him, which he acknowledged with a kind compliment. My current consultant, I will be seeing in a month for my biannual check-up. For myself, I have been blessed to have had these amazing people as my consultants and I will always be grateful for their professionalism, humanity, and kindness. Never be remiss in having a sense of gratitude.

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