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Friday, May 7, 1999 Published at 12:25 GMT 13:25 UK


Only when I laugh

By BBC Doctor Colin Thomas

It's funny how things can cheer you up when you're not feeling up to scratch.

I had to make arrangements to see my own doctor at the beginning of this week because my leg suddenly swelled up after what I assume was an insect bite.

Rather trivial you may say, and I agree, but it was making me feel lousy so instead of making a half-cocked attempt at curing it myself I thought I ought to get it looked at by my GP.

Now it may surprise you to learn that, although a medical man myself, a trip to see my own doctor fills me with the same dread as I imagine it does for anyone else. How will he react? Will he think I'm wasting his time? Is it serious enough to bother him?

By way of confirmation I'd already shown my leg to anyone in the department who would look at it to 'seek approval', and my secretary, after a very professional touch, assured me that I was doing the right thing.

Normal behaviour?

This set me thinking. If I was behaving in this manner - and I should know better, let's face it - then how does this compare to the normal lay person who has a medical problem?

It is absolutely clear that going to see your doctor at the appropriate time and feeling free to tell him or her all the gory details is the most critical part of the whole process, but I'm sure guilty thoughts like mine do get in the way.

Perhaps if there were more people like my secretary, able to give a quick nod of approval for a medical visit then this fear of rejection wouldn't get in the way of the consultation process.

In fact, I have learnt much more about patients and their fears by my own encounters with the medical profession than any number of lectures or seminars on communication skills.

Anyway, back to my close encounter of the medical kind.

Comedy consultation

I try to look nonchalant when I walk in to my doctor. "Haven't seen you for a while," he says.

"No," I reply, "I don't like to come too often . . ." Crikey! He probably thinks I don't trust him - better make amends ". . . but this time I thought I should see an expert."

This raises a slight smile, so perhaps I'm back in with a chance. Then before I know it I'm on the couch with half my clothes off, but somehow I don't mind, I've surrendered.

I walked out of his consulting room door where all eyes started to fix on me as I walked through the waiting room. Why were they looking at me? What was the interest?

As I stopped to open the door to the outside world I checked myself over, and - God's honest truth - I had forgotten to do my flies up.

I laughed, and felt better.

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