Local readers of the Medical Column know that I am an Australian trained doctor, but graduated in the UK, worked in England and Gibraltar, returning to Australia as a ship’s surgeon and after some years back in Australia came to make Thailand my home, where I have been for the past 20 odd years.
Most readers also expect that the life of a doctor is one of the safest professions and you will probably be surprised to know that when my eldest son expressed a desire to study to become a doctor I said “Don’t!” Some of the reasons for my negative approach include my being attacked by patients with a pistol, a razor, and a machete. And this was not as a doctor in the underworld, but as your average suburban GP.
My first brush with danger came when I scored the job of a locum tenens for a lady doctor in Amersham, a quiet picturesque English town. I was offered a substantial salary, a petrol allowance and a pleasant flat in town. I couldn’t believe my luck, but I should have been warned when the locum who was just finishing met me as I arrived for the job interview and who said, “Hit ‘em high.” The practice was a typical English GP practice with its own rose garden and a senior doctor who attended to the needs of private patients, while I got the National Health Service patients, from a different socio-economic group.
I had been there about three months and began to wonder how long the doctor was going to be away. When I enquired of the practice manager, she said, “Didn’t you know why doctor was not coming back?” When I replied in the negative she floored me with the information, “Doctor was murdered on the golf course six months ago! Everybody round here knows who did it, but the police don’t have enough evidence, and by the way, you visit that patient every Thursday morning.”
Now the reason for the “Hit ‘em high” became obvious. The British doctors knew about the shocking history of the practice, but since I had been in Gibraltar for the past year I was not aware or pre-warned.
The next Thursday morning saw me somewhat in trepidation, waving my stethoscope around the front door, and being ready to run at the first sign. It was always a relief when the Thursday visit was over. I resigned shortly after.
Have you ever been threatened with a machete in the course of your duties? I have. It was Xmas day when I received a frantic phone call from the security guard from one of the factories I used to attend when necessary. “There’s a bloke with a machete walking round the factory looking for the Managing Director.” That certainly took my attention away from Xmas trees.
With my heart in my mouth and a loaded syringe of sedative in my pocket, I began walking round the deserted factory, looking for the local mad axman. Spotting him was not too difficult. Men waving size 10 machetes are not the usual in a brewery. I waved back.
Having decided I was no threat to him, and having decided he was not looking for me, I told him we could wait in the security area as the MD was on his way, and he could put the machete down. While that was going on, the police had been called who stormed the security area securing the man and his machete.
I went home and had a beer to celebrate a somewhat different Xmas.
If the Editor agrees, I will write another time about some of my other life’s excitements including a Colt 45 and Jesus.
(Note: I know the editor, and he agrees.)