Heroes with a thousand faces
I am always being altered by people, feeling their presence, importance and influence. I can take your questions and think so many people into the responses because it’s such a broad construct to answer to. Every day, every week, someone does something I admire, makes me think I’d like to emulate or follow them in some way, influences me to change course, or just simply affects me.
Last week a man stood outside my block of flats, seeking to rent a garage. We recognised each other’s faces even behind our masks. Yes, he remembered he’d seen me as a GP off and on in the last 20 years, and I indeed remembered him.
I called him over, safe to tell him about his meaning to my life since now he’s retired. ‘Do you realise,’ I asked, ‘that you gave me the wrong diagnosis in 2002, meaning that my hearing loss became permanent when it could have been treated if you’d known better?’ He faltered. ‘But because of you,’ I explained, ‘I’ve affected thousands of people’s lives, giving talks, writing articles, participating in research, advocating for patients and people with hearing loss.’
I could see he still felt bad. ‘Do you remember,’ I asked, ‘that in 2000, one evening your medical practice was called out to go to a tennis court and attempt to revive a man who had collapsed? This man was my partner.’
‘ Yes, I do remember.’ he said. ‘I put a tube in his throat: when the ambulance took him away, his heart was beating again.’
‘It was, but then he had a massive heart attack when he got to the hospital. So, you see, you are my hero.’
Now shall I tell you who my hero was the week before it was the doctor? Or wait for the next?
— Jean Straus, London