‘True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.’
Originally a quote by the former American tennis player, Arthur Ashe, I heard it this week applied to Jack Leach the number 11 batsmen who survived 17 balls in the last test match, scoring 1 not out and sticking around while Ben Stokes made 135.
It was a remarkable performance on the part of Jack Leach, made all the more so when one learns that, not so long ago, so fearful was he of batting, Leach would almost throw up in the Somerset dressing room waiting to bat.
Of course Ben Stokes received most of the praise but it was together that Leach and Stokes won a remarkable game of cricket.
Jack Leach’s one not out mattered. Enormously.
No Jack Leach – no victory celebrations.
The quote has, I think, some bearing on what we do every day in General Practice. Now I am sure that none of us would feel comfortable being called a hero, perhaps that is in the nature of what true heroism is, but nonetheless, though it rarely hits the headlines, what we do is hugely significant too.
No General Practice – no functioning NHS.
Some of us will have seen the recent, highly enjoyable film ‘Yesterday’, which imagines a world where all the songs of the Beatles have been forgotten. The world is a lesser place as a consequence. Others will have seen ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ the 1946 film which has become a staple of the Christmas TV schedules. In it, George Bailey’s thoughts of suicide are reversed when he is made to see how his life has had a positive effect on others. Though he was not aware of it, what he has done has benefitted others in ways he could not have imagined.
So it is with our day to day work.
Perhaps it’s not as dramatic as some of the things that our colleagues in secondary care do, things that most of us are not even capable of – trust me, you don’t want me holding the knife when you rupture your aortic aneurysm.
Perhaps the praise more readily lands on those heading up large departments developing cutting edge medical treatments.
True what we do is sometimes forgotten, and not even appreciated by ourselves as of importance, but what we do is every bit as vital. The little things count. The comforting word here, the early diagnosis there: the preventative intervention the benefit of which we’ll never be aware of and a million other minor interventions with major implications.
So let’s be encouraged – to keep going perhaps if we have begun to wonder whether there is any point to it any more. Let’s not do ourselves down – the great and the good may not care all that much about what we do each day, but many of our patients do.
Because it matters.