Liam Farrell: My good fortune to have a wonderful mentor

'Ah, the fall of the leaf,' said my senior colleague happily, as we drove slowly down the boreen. 'There is still magic in the world.'

He had been retired for many years, but enjoyed accompanying me on house calls. He’d looked after our patients for over fifty years, battling ceaselessly through the dark times of the Troubles, bearing unfailing witness to the joys and sorrows that are baked into the clay of which the world is made, and I always felt very fortunate to be accompanied by his wisdom and knowledge.

He was a great big laughing man, always in good form, vital and vigorous, and his patients would say they felt better just looking at him; coming in to see him, they weren’t just coming to see any doctor, but someone who knew their seed, breed and generation. The comfort of being listened to and understood, the warmth of a smile, these things can’t be seen or touched or counted or measured, but they are very, very real. A lot of important things are like that.

I reflected on my good fortune; too many of our older generation are allowed to dream away their valuable experience while nodding by the fireside.

I’d never had a mentor, perhaps because I was too obnoxious; but also I never thought I needed one, and it was an epiphany, after all the years of medical school and hospital and GP rotations, to encounter someone I could really admire and really want to emulate.

Without his guidance and example I would have missed many things; how good it is to be needed, that it was better to like my patients than have them liking me, and most of all, the importance of being kind.

In his eighties, made weak by time and fate, we took a day-trip to Cheltenham National Hunt Festival. We left at the crack of dawn, took an early flight, had a wonderful day, walking the course beforehand, meeting the legends of the turf, relishing the gladiatorial atmosphere.

Exhausted, I dropped him back to his front door just before midnight, and then he turned to me, as if to strive, to seek, and not to yield, and said: 'That was great, young fella. Next year we’ll go for the whole three days.'

Dedicated to Dr Jack Crummie


Liam and Dr Jack Crummie at Cheltenham Racecourse

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell

Read more from Liam Farrell

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

GP careers: My life working as a remote GP

GP careers: My life working as a remote GP

Dr Patrice Baptiste explains a typical day in her role as a remote GP and the advantages...

Average GP practice could face £15,000 hit from national insurance hike

Average GP practice could face £15,000 hit from national insurance hike

An average GP practice could face a financial hit of around £15,000 from the national...

Practices could follow suit as hospitals relax infection control over care backlog

Practices could follow suit as hospitals relax infection control over care backlog

Health secretary Sajid Javid has backed a significant relaxation of infection control...

BMA demands priority access for key workers as fuel shortage threatens NHS care

BMA demands priority access for key workers as fuel shortage threatens NHS care

Healthcare workers must be offered priority access to fuel to guarantee that vital...

GPs unable to get to work as petrol shortages hit NHS workforce

GPs unable to get to work as petrol shortages hit NHS workforce

GPs have warned that practice staff are struggling to get to work and are being forced...

Javid must offer 'clear public backing for GPs', warns BMA

Javid must offer 'clear public backing for GPs', warns BMA

The BMA has demanded 'clear public backing' for general practice from the government...