I saw two contrasting patients in my surgery this morning. Don is easy to like and to admire. He is in his 80s, and always polite, unassuming and grateful for everything that we do. He tells me fascinating tales about life in Urbs Beata when he was a boy in the 1930s, and life in the Marines during the second world war. It is always a pleasure to see him and encourage him to provide more reminiscences while I juggle with his antihypertensives and his U&Es.
Maxine tends to cause frustration, and her notes are littered with slightly barbed comments from her doctors. She is in her 30s, always looks smiling but anxious, and presents frequently with minor problems. If she comes for herself she always brings her daughter and asks about her as well. If she comes for her daughter she always asks about herself as well. She is demanding and wants everything fixed straight away. And yet, she is trying hard. She has had a very difficult past and is now trying to bring up her daughter as a single parent and establish a new relationship.
So Don is a pleasure and Maxine a heartsink. And yet I feel that Maxine is more in need of our services. Don will be fine whatever we do, but maybe some good doctoring will play a small part in helping Maxine to get her life back together again. Needless to say, there are lucrative Brownie points attached to getting Don's blood pressure and biochemistry within politically correct parameters, but no such incentives to treat Maxine well. She has to rely on our vocation, and human nature being what it is I don't always give of my best, sad to say.
I'm glad we have both sorts of patients. Too many Dons would make us complacent and self-satisfied. Too many Maxines would drive us nuts.