Family Doctor Week – So what inspires you now? (Canberra Doctor - Family Doctor Week 2017)

20 Jul 2017

Dr Antonio Di Dio, finding inspiration

Yes, well. The less said about inspiring article titles the better, I say. Nevertheless, a big welcome to our special week, a great time to reflect on how we got here in this important and wonderful profession, and what keeps us here!

I started work early this morning, looking for what still inspires me. I’m told that in In 1960, when asked by a young BBC interviewer what kept him writing,  Evelyn Waugh replied “the ongoing fear of poverty, my dear “.


Patient 1

Gee, I hope we can do better. Anyway, patient one arrives, late, grizzled, and after having the usual checks asks if I would mind getting a mole looked at. It’s iffy so I get my colleague next door, very good at this sort of thing, to have a peek. I pop in to see our beloved pocket rocket, Dr Sporty.

She's just arrived on a bike thrice her size, looking like Annie but swinging like Rocky. The bike looks brand new because she never really rides it, just carries it over her head when running (to get a better workout),  like some terrifying micro-Amazon. She's zipped over 20kms from her earlier job, giving anaesthetics.

I don’t ask her about the kangaroo in her room but clearly they’ve been boxing. We’ve spoken about this sort of thing before. The roo is happy but exhausted, so Sporty tells him to rest and recover while she sees another patient. Note to self – do a push-up. Learn more about skin. Be nicer.


Patient 3

Patient three has seven simple things, one impossible fascinoma, no way of paying an account, a personality disorder, and then her real problems commence. Needing fiddly bloods and delicate personal handling next week, when I’m away on holidays. Blowing into a paper bag, I ask The Professor to have a look so she can follow my patient up next week.

The Prof holds my hand and explains all the big words from the path report, then calls the pathologist to explain them to him. She saves a few thousand for Medicare in unnecessary tests with a diagnosis worthy of House, then holds hands with the patient and looks into her eyes with a piercing kindness that tells her that someone understands. Patient is thrilled, follow up for next week is sorted. Note to self – be a bit smarter. And nicer.


Patient 9

The morning goes fine till patient nine gets a cut. While stitching it up I notice a little black lesion that needs removal immediately, and I’m booked out till the next Democrat administration.

Wonder Woman shows up to fill up the liquid nitrogen and waves hello, impossibly cheerful, machine-like in punctuality, brilliant in a way that no human could be. I ask if she would be ok to excise this lump tomorrow or this week sometime. In mid-stride she has a peek, makes the diagnosis, and agrees to whip it out tonight, just before ducking home, making a perfect meal, running to Yass and back then polishing off the Great Australian Novel. Note to self – try to develop some awesomeness, and be nicer.


The Downhill Run

OK, after that I’m sailing successfully solo. Twenty odd years doing this I do NOT need to lean on my colleagues every five minutes. I’m an independent guy. All I needed this morning were 8 quick phones calls to mates and 2 texts. And a snail mail. And one fax telling me to halve a dose of something unpronounceable. But other than that – totally solo. 

Lunch passes al desko with notes and paperwork. The Prof is giving a speech online to a bunch at The Hague, hanging on her every word, while Wonder Woman’s husband has popped in with the baby so she can quickly feed him in between lunchtime chin ups. We all hear Sporty in her office shouting “Get up, ya wimp” to some punch-drunk marsupial but pretend not to. 


Patient 19

Meanwhile patient 19 arrives for tear duct control. She needs support and patience, from someone who has some sort of magic in her calm voice that oozes confidence and calm. Tomorrow I am away and she needs someone calmer than Buddha and smarter than Tesla . Um? Yes - Dr Purls kindly agrees to help.

Purls has temporomandibular joints that apparently work quite well, but who is so classy that they have almost never been used. They say that, when still young, she was involved in a tragic accident with a liberty print shirt, a pair of R M Williams boots, and a navy overcoat, and when the hospital accidently gave a transfusion of pure White Linen, she was doomed to a lifetime of being mistaken for Grace Kelly or Princess Diana. She has never been seen without pearls, or noted to raise her voice or be ruffled by anything. The patients love her. Note to self – be less goofy. And nicer.


Patient 22

Patient 22 needs a dressing and ECG quick smart. Nurse Diesel says yes but growls that low husky way when she’s not been fed for some time. I don’t get too close and she does what’s needed. I never make eye contact. We understand each other. Note to self- give in less to fear.

And I’m getting closer to learning something about what inspires me. But not till Mrs Smooch needs advice about a procedure next week. The very brilliant Dr Saffron has arrived and her door is open - I catch her and beg for help – and she sorts it all out it a minute. At the same time her hands cradle a mortar and pestle as she combines ancient recipes for curries that would make you weep with joy, checks path results on the screen, and fields calls from her husband, one of the smartest men I know, asking how the roll-a-door works. He is my brother in non-medical ineptitude. Note to self – be multi-skilled, and humble. And nicer.


Patient 24

Patient 24 needs complex issues addressed and I need to know what the medical board would do. Dr Bunny skis in her dreams but she’s also the most authoritative doctor in the town. All seek her wisdom, I live next door to it. She sorts it out with a smile before telling me about ski conditions in Copenhagen and what AHPRA need her advice for this week. Note to self – look at all the amazing careers within careers in medicine.

Finally Mr A presents, booked for spirometry. Sporty and Wonder have both gone home. The Prof is online to Harvard and the others are busy. I must face Nurse Diesel - alone. I creep in. She looks up from her chair in the corner. She’s holding Dr Saffron’s mortar and pestle. She likes to crush things when I make requests.

This time, it’s a goniometer. Quick thuds are followed by a cracking sound. She smiles and kindly says “Of course, dear beloved colleague”. She’s always in a good mood after the “crack” sound. Problem quickly solved, patient better. She hugs me and says I must not give in to fear. Note to self – do not give in to fear.


My Inspiration – Every Day

I look around and wonder what inspires me every day. Yes, it’s my family and friends, and yes it’s the patients but today and every day it’s the amazing people I work with. They inspire me to do better, and they make me enjoy the work we do so much more. Welcome to family doctor week – I think they are awesome!