Chapter 3, Pt 3 of 4
INCIDENTS CONNECTED WITH THE SURGERY AND PATIENTS
The first heavy snowfall fascinated me beyond measure, and when at night time the full moon was shining brightly on the snow-covered ground, I forgot all about my duties and stood outside in the garden, simply hypnotised by this enchanting beauty of Mother Nature. I must have stayed outside for quite a time because I remember when I came back in the dining room, the fire was nearly out and Sheel, who had finished his surgery early, was waiting for his supper. He had to go out on two long walking visits after his meal and consequently he did not share my enthusiasm about the wonderful snow.
Talking about snow storms, reminds me of another incident which happened in the middle of one night. Sheel was called out to a maternity case, and after keeping awake for a while, and controlling my nervousness, which I usually felt whenever I was left alone in the house at night, I must have dropped off to sleep. A shrill ring of the night-bell startled me and after slipping on my dressing-gown, I rushed downstairs and opened the front door a little (we did not have the door chain then), I heard a man’s voice say “Sorry to worry you, but I want to speak to the Doctor about my wife, I must see him at once.”
” He is out just now,” I said.
“All right I will wait outside.”
I glanced at him, and noticed that he was covered with snow, which was still failing heavily. I could not possibly let him wait outside, I thought. I told him I would open the side door and let him wait in the consulting room. After closing the front door, I rushed through the kitchen and was out in the long narrow open passage, which divided the house from the surgery. In my fluster I banged the kitchen door behind me and locked myself out once again. This time I realised my mistake at once, but the damage had been done already. I let the gentleman sit in the consulting room, but where to go myself I had no idea.
There I stood leaning against the garage door, in my night attire shivering, hoping and praying that the baby my husband had gone to deliver would not be long coming. You can imagine my joy and Sheel’s amazement when he opened the garage door and nearly knocked me over.
“Another visit?” he said agitatingly, “and why on earth are you standing here in the snow?” Afterwards I admitted that it was unwise of me to let a stranger come into the consulting room at that time of the night, especially when I was alone in the house.
Another time, when I went down to answer a night-bell about 2 o’clock in the morning, I f o u n d a very well dressed and made-up young lady at the doer. She wanted to see the Doctor because she was very distressed and needed his advice on some serious matter. My first impulse was to tell her point blank that as she was not physically ill she could not see my husband at that time of night, but I controlled my feelings and asked her to wait outside while I took her message upstairs to Sheel.
“What did you say her name was?” he asked, as he rubbed his eyes. I repeated the name.
“Oh, poor girl, she is in trouble again. Take her in the dining room, and talk to her I will follow you in a few minutes.”
I did what I was told. We doctors’ wives have to obey our husbands much more than most women I reckon.
However, we three sat in the dining room by the fire which had only cinders left in it, for almost an hour. I just listened and watched silently, but I certainly learnt something very important that night. I learnt that my husband, being a family doctor in a country district, had to do much more for his patients than merely treat them when they were ill.
The tears of gratitude were rolling down her cheeks when the young woman left our house. I went a little way on the road with her and she seemed very grateful for that.
Later, before we dropped off to sleep again, Sheel told me the history of the girl. “She is the only child,” he went on. “Her mother committed suicide about a month ago: her father, a very decent and likeable man, has a weakness for drinking, and last night when this young lady went home after taking part in a social gathering, she found her father dead drunk. It frightened her out of her wits, but she did not have the heart to go to the police to report her own father, so she walked down to our place, a distance of about a mile, all alone at that time of the night.”
Another time when I went to answer a doorbell, I found a girl of about 12, nearly in tears and out of breath with running to get to our door. “Please could the doctor come at once to our house, my daddy is beating mummy?” I could not believe my ears until the girl repeated in a shaky voice, “Yes, daddy is beating mummy.”