As my surgery door closes, an­other is open­ing

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - DR CIARA KELLY -

ISAW my last pa­tient this week, pos­si­bly ever. Oh, I knew it was com­ing, and even though in the end it was just a fairly rou­tine GP visit and I doubt they thought it was very sig­nif­i­cant — for me it was a huge mile­stone. The mag­ni­tude of it I’m not sure has sunk in, draw­ing to a close 20 years of work as a doc­tor.

And I have loved be­ing a doc­tor. It’s a funny job. They change your pre­fix from Ms or Mr to Dr and the truth is it be­comes part of who you are, part of your iden­tity — not just to oth­ers but to your­self. So you don’t just work as a doc­tor. You be­come one. And it’s a mas­sive priv­i­lege and a mas­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity in equal mea­sure.

I’ve of­ten thought I got as much if not more from my pa­tients than they ever got from me. I know at some of the low­est points in my life, go­ing to work and talk­ing to my pa­tients was al­most the only thing that would take me out of my­self and make me re­alise I wasn’t the only one with prob­lems. It grounded me. It up­lifted me. Work­ing in a job that helps other peo­ple is a kind of win-win. You help them but some­how by help­ing them you help your­self too. So it’s not with­out some real sad­ness and trep­i­da­tion that I’m leav­ing. And I sus­pect I will miss my pa­tients long after they stop miss­ing me.

And I’ve never re­ally done any­thing quite so reck­less, quite so un-sen­si­ble be­fore. I went to col­lege straight out of school and did com­merce — even though I didn’t much like the idea. My par­ents who wouldn’t have had the op­por­tu­nity to go to col­lege — my mum didn’t even have the chance to fin­ish sec­ondary school — were very keen that all their chil­dren would go on to third level so we would never strug­gle like they had had to. So even though com­merce didn’t sound all that ap­peal­ing I re­mem­ber them urg­ing me to do it — so that I would have “some­thing to fall back on”. The car­rot of cut­ting loose and do­ing some­thing care­free after com­merce was dan­gled in front of me but that never hap­pened as straight after com­merce, I went into medicine which suited me much bet­ter. And straight after that I went into hos­pi­tals.

I have friends who talk about the wild 1990s when Dublin started to be­come cos­mopoli­tan and edge its way to­wards the boom years. But my 1990s were spent in a daze on be­ing up all night walk­ing the floors of The Mater Hos­pi­tal in a pair of scrubs and fall­ing asleep while try­ing to study for ex­ams. That all seemed to roll seam­lessly into hav­ing a fam­ily. So do­ing stuff that wasn’t sen­si­ble wasn’t re­ally on my agenda.

And let’s be hon­est. Giv­ing up my job as a GP — with all its se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity and longevity — to present a ra­dio show isn’t very sen­si­ble! But I’m do­ing it any­way. I’ve been dab­bling in the me­dia for about a decade al­though of late it’s be­come a much big­ger com­mit­ment and then after a se­ries of well-pub­li­cised events, the of­fer of my own show came along un­ex­pect­edly. And the rest, as they say, is his­tory.

So why do it, if I love be­ing a GP so much? Well I sup­pose be­cause I think I’d prob­a­bly re­gret it if I didn’t. It’s rare enough that life throws you an op­por­tu­nity that out­strips your hopes and dreams and the truth is I re­ally love broad­cast­ing. And even though I also love be­ing a doc­tor, I sim­ply can’t con­tinue to do both. Some­thing had to give and that thing was prob­a­bly go­ing to be me. But also I didn’t want to do ei­ther job badly and that was prob­a­bly go­ing to hap­pen if I didn’t choose. But I’ve also learnt from this that it’s pos­si­ble to move for­ward and em­brace change and want to do some­thing new while also feel­ing a sense of sad­ness and even fear about what you are leav­ing be­hind.

In any case I know this — that this next chap­ter may be great or it may be a to­tal dis­as­ter, but ei­ther way I still want to do it and I’d rather try this and fail than not try it at all. I’m ex­cited and a small bit ter­ri­fied but mix­ing things up even in your for­ties feels like a pretty good thing to do. And on the bright side thanks to years of be­hav­ing sen­si­bly — if it all goes hor­ri­bly wrong, at least I do have some­thing to fall back on.

@cia­rakel­ly­doc

Lunchtime Live with Ciara Kelly is on New­stalk Ra­dio week­days, 12-2pm

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