Sunday on call

The pager goes off by my ear, it’s a noise I can never switch off from. Once I went on holiday and stayed in a caravan for a week. The microwave in the caravan made exactly the same noise as the pager. It took me 4 days before I stopped jumping out of my skin!
On this occasion it is still dark on a Sunday morning, the rest of my house is in silence. I phone in to our answering service – an old dog has gone off his legs and his owners are thinking it might be time to say goodbye. I call the owners back and arrange to meet them at the surgery.

I get dressed in the dark, hoping I put my clothes on the right way round – a balance between appearing professional and waking my (very tolerant) husband – I always leave my clothes folded next to my bedroom door just in case of that night-time call. I splash some water on my face and head downstairs.

The family are still fast asleep, so I sneak passed the cats, try not to wake the dogs (otherwise they’ll think it’s breakfast time) and leave the house on the lightest feet I can manage. Into the car and blast on the heater, and off to the surgery – a 10 minute drive.
From pager beeping to arriving at the surgery has taken me about 20 minutes, and now there is a glow in the sky as the day starts to break.

I open up the surgery, turning on lights, computers, unlocking cabinets, so that I can be prepared and ready for my clients to arrive. It’s going to be a sad farewell to an old familiar patient and a much-loved family member.

People often say “this must be the worst part of your job”. But it’s not, it’s honestly not. Letting a patient go at the right time, for the right reasons is an absolute privilege. An honour. Clients trust us to do it right, so at the time I focus on the physicality of the process, making it as smooth and stress-free as I can.

It’s afterwards that I may shed a tear, sometimes with the client if we know each other well enough. Or sometimes after they have gone. Or a good chat and sharing of memories with a colleague can work well. But on a Sunday the owners leave and I slowly, carefully and respectfully do what needs to be done.

On this Sunday the day has broken crisp and clear. I have an in-patient to attend to, so I take him out for a little walk, making best use of our grassy area for his comfort. He’s a lovely dog and is improving with his treatment, so we sit at our picnic bench for a moment and watch the sun rise over the town centre, in silence, together.
Then time for a cup of tea, and grab a quick breakfast from the local shop before the pager goes off again. And so the day continues.

(Post script: when I started writing this blog I intended it to just be an account of my day on-call, but the peacefulness and serenity of the surgery that particular morning just turned it into something else........... Apologies if it was not what you were expecting!)


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