Next week will be my last week at work. I have worked in the same medical centre for more than 25 years. Patients that I remember being born now have their own children. Often I looked after three and sometimes four generations of the same family.
So now I am saying good bye to it all. I might never work as a doctor again. I kept my registration and did my appraisal to keep my options open, but I am ready for new challenges.
It is a strange feeling, and a big change.
But then, I have plans. I really enjoy writing, and I would like to try to make my book successful and finish the sequel. I started writing the sequel a year ago, but haven’t touched it for several months.
I also have lots of stories I’d like to write about, amazing stories I heard from my parents and other relatives and friends, mainly experiences form the war. Stories from concentration camps with a difference because they are funny. Dark Jewish humour, experiences of people behaving well. Uplifting stories, despite the tragic background.
I might write those stories under my real name.
My publisher and several journalists that were interested in my book “A Woman with (No) Strings Attached” keep telling me my chance of success is limited by my hidden identity. They wanted photos. I was willing to do interviews, providing nobody sees my face. It is hard, because a lot of my book is autobiographical and it is not only my identity I am protecting.
Some things are more important than my literary success.
I love writing, always did. My friends are used to my long frequent emails. My partner once said “I love your emails, but I would love them less if I had to reply to them all.”So maybe I should concentrate on writing those stories and trying to publish them under my real name, not as Lucie Novák. Then, if anybody is interested, they can see my face! (Not that it is much of a treat).
The last weeks at work were touching. All those cards, flowers, chocolates, other presents. And it is not just a printed “Happy Retirement!” Patients write me long lovely notes. I will keep them. One of the patient baked me a cake that looked like flowers!
And flowers that looked like flowers:
Sometimes, the notes reminded me of long forgotten cases…
“Nine years ago, you did my Pap smear and I didn’t feel a thing.” I remembered the woman, who found examinations scary, and did not have a smear for ten years.I told her I will buy her a bottle of wine if it hurts. I joked and took things slowly. It worked. She brought me a bottle of wine now, and attached another note: ” You never needed to get me that bottle, doctor!”
“…Thank you for looking after me and after my two sons for the last 20 years. I am especially grateful for your help back in 1999. I came to you very distraught with my son Joe. He could not seem to drink or eat, but I visited two Accident and Emergency departments and seen a paediatrician and they all told me nothing was wrong and he was hysterical! This was over a period of two days. You immediately knew something was wrong and sent us to an ENT department. After much discussion there he was given an emergency operation and they removed a piece of chicken from his oesophagus. You were the only doctor that took us seriously. He is now a healthy 25 y old man , but I dread to think what may have happened if not for you.”
I remembered the occasion when I read her card. I complained to the hospital manager about the doctors who dismissed the child’s complaint.
“We were really surprised you are retiring, as you have been such a part of our family lives for many years..”
“I received the news of your retirement with sadness for me and joy for you”
“Thanks for your direct, practical and sympathetic approach” I am not sure if this was a compliment. Does “direct” mean rude? I hope not.
“Your “3 secrets of weight loss” will always stay with me. You used to annoy me so much by mentioning my weight and lack of exercise. This doctor claims it is all my fault!Eventually, I took your advice and ‘ate less, exercised more and this time I did it all at the same time’…I lost 20 kg and feel much better. Thank you! “
I could go on, all those stories.
Those cards remind me that I made a difference. Any person who can say that about his or her work is lucky.
I should apologise to my mother, who made me study medicine against my will. ANd of course, that she bought me my first and many other skis.
Being a GP was a satisfying career and I had fun.
Thank you, mother. Thank you, patients. Thank you, skiing!
Now I wonder if my writing can make a difference, too. To my readers.
It is a challenge! And I like challenges.
Wish me luck!