Tuesday, April 19, 2022

For better, For worse...

Once upon a time, being wise was an accomplishment coincident with grey hairs of age and years of lived experiences, a library collection of classics, or scars that told tales of battles or wartime hardships. 

Nowadays all you need is internet access with a decent data package, a randomly selected audience and voila! - you have the wisdom of King Solomon and the poetic flair of Maya Angelou!

I have also come to learn that if you have certain letters before your name and suffix titles suggesting educational supremacy, people expect some unrealistic levels of wisdom that transcends age or experience. 

Which is why this couple, with a combined age of more than 150 years, were sitting in my office today. 

In a free healthcare system, it was not unusual to be the listening ear for marital woes but these ones seemed different. 

They had been married for fifty years! 5-0! 

On their wedding day, I was still one of thousands of eggs and could easily have ended up as a bit of blood on a sanitary towel. 

Who was I to be giving them marriage advice?!

I had learned from past experience that my role here was to nod and hum and listen. 


I remembered a couple I had seen a few months earlier. 

The lady was fed up and frustrated with her husband's general bad behaviour. He stayed out late, drank too much alcohol and had become so boldly disrespectful to her that he now brought prostitutes home! She was filing for a divorce and wanted a letter detailing the effect on her mental health. He was there to seek help to prove to her that he was ready to change. 

The story sounded strangely familiar. 

Scrolling through her medical records, I found exactly the same consultation I'd had with her five years before! It was so identical that I could have just copied and pasted it.

I realised that my role was not to try to salvage their marriage, like I had assumed the first time around but just to write the "He said, She said" letter and wish them well.


Today I was planning to do the same with this elderly animated couple who kept dragging me into their quarrel. 

"He keeps saying he's going to change but he never will. He says he feels like shooting me. Doctor please can you tell him that he should not speak to me like that!"

"She keeps nagging me. *Gavin do this, Gavin do that. Gavin don't climb there, Gavin don't sit here. How will you feel if you were me? I think I am going to change my name and just ignore her. "

"Every time he is with me my blood pressure goes sky high. You can check it now and see. I should have left him a long time ago." 

"I am not sleeping because of her nagging. I even hear her voice in my sleep." 

"He doesn't allow me to rest. Anytime he sees me resting he starts digging or drilling or vacuuming. Making noise!" 

"Doc, it is not as bad as you think. Our son thinks she's a good cook. I agree." 

"It is very very bad doctor. He keeps saying he feels like killing me! I feel like killing him too. And yes  I am a good cook, and cleaner and everything else." 

.... and on and on and on for what felt like the entire 50 years of their marriage. 

Finally, I decided to intervene to show some relevance. 

"So when was the last time you remember being happy together?"

Blank stares. 

"How did this all start?" I enquired further. 

She looked at me and said "It all started from something that his mother ate when she was pregnant with him ...."

Somehow I was expecting an explosion of laughter but quickly had to restructure my emerging outburst into some kind of contorted look of curiosity when I caught the dead serious look on her face. 

I pondered. 

Maybe I would have been better placed if I had signed up for one of those 7 day online Life Coach certification courses. 

Apparently, one can acquire the skills to solve other people's problems in just 7 days and make some good money in the process, solving their own financial problems along the way - or so the adverts claimed. 

Alas with my nineteen years of medical practice and all the prefix and suffix titles embracing my name, I was only able to prescribe them sleeping tablets. "

" So what are you going to do now?" I asked. 

"Nothing." They both replied. "We'll just have to carry on." 

I sent a referral to the safeguarding team to visit them and home and make sure they don't kill each other. 

For better, For worse......