I recently asked a doctor if she was going to a patient’s funeral. She shook her head and told me “I don’t do after-sale services.” I burst out laughing! I love how humour can carry us through so much sadness. Her statement was scandalously funny, but also got me thinking…

We don’t have a hard-and-fast rule regarding  this, but there is no way we can attend all the memorials or funerals to which we are invited.. It is just not feasible with the hours we keep,  but we do make it to a few. We also often host a tea or lunch on anniversaries of deaths and have recently started planting trees in our garden to remember certain guests. The relationships we form in this work are so beautifully authentic that they tend to carry on in one way or another.

So, I think we actually often do “after-sale-service” in a variety of ways. For instance, at least once a week, a patient will come back to show us how well they have recovered since they left. Recently, a 30 year old guy came to show us what he looks like a year after we last saw him. He recovered with us over a period of three months after barely surviving a car crash on the M1 highway. Whilst he was with us, we were all doubtful as to whether he would be able to walk again, but here he was, tanned and happy, walking without so much as a limp, and back to teaching scuba diving and skippering a boat in Zanzibar.

We see a lot of our cosmetic surgery patients when they come and visit their friends. It seems that different groups of friends do different plastic surgeries with different surgeons. Someone should write a book about this interesting peer dynamic. I suspect the psychology behind it must be fascinating. It is great for us to see the difference the extremely painful plastic surgery has made for different people. It is also funny how you see through all the make-up, lashes, hair-extensions and designer clothing, and just remember the vulnerable woman in pain. We love them with or without the new boobs, bums, bingo-wings, waists, noses and inner thighs.

When patients come back after recovering from an illness and you get to see them a bit chubbier, more confident and more energetic, it is really wonderful. It is great to have that shared experience of coming through a challenge together, having all had different roles in it. It is really special to have a cup of coffee with our previous guests  and to reminisce about those scary moments when hope was lost and goodbyes were said.

At the moment, we are doing another kind of “after sales service.” One of our very ill patients have had to accept the reality that she will never go back home, where she has three dogs and four cats on a huge property. We love Paddy, and this is not the first time she’s stayed with us. She’s been with us a few other times for respite care. We know her and her grandkids and her extended family. We are used to her Scottish accent and her love of all British TV. So when we heard her beloved labrador, Captain, has not found a home, our hearts broke. If I did not treasure my marriage so much, I would have taken her dog, but I’m afraid I don’t have the emotional energy for a divorce. Once her son showed me the picture of her beautiful blond lab, I immediately started campaigning to rehome him. Paddy wept when I promised her I would not let him go to a shelter. She told me that when she started getting ill, she took Captain’s big blond head in both her hands and promised him she would not ever let him down because he had  never let her down and was a wonderful gentle companion to her for years.

Paddy found Captain at the SPCA. He was dumped there by the police. Apparently, he was a police dog, but due to his fear of guns, he could not make the cut. That story almost killed me! What awful rejection! ? I was very surprised that this happened because I understood that the police really cared for their dogs, so let’s trust there was more to the story, but this is how Captain ended up with Paddy and she said she just could not leave him at the SPCA. She loves this dog so much (I am not sure it is possible to love any animal more than I love my cat, but maybe Paddy got close) and I knew emotionally she would simply do much better if she knew her dog was in safe hands.

It did not take much to convince my brother that it is only politically correct to get a blonde lab to blend in with his chocolate lab and his black lab. Unfortunately, he also has two other dogs, so a fifth dog would not really be the best idea. Plus his wife actually said “enough already” about three dogs and one parrot ago… My brother dutifully came to meet Paddy, and also promised that if no one else in this whole world takes Captain, he would take him (and probably make some marriage counsellor very rich).

But then, Paddy’s neigbour at the lodge, who is recovering from invasive surgery after an aggressive cancer diagnosis, saw Captain and fell in love with his kind brown eyes and soft fur. She desperately wants him, and if she recovers well enough, she will take him.

So it looks like somehow, somewhere, a home for Captain will be found. 50% of another couple with whom I work is also keen, but it seems that with couples the dog-theory is as applicable as the olive theory (according to something I am convinced a random vlogger made up, in every couple there is one person that likes olives and there also seems to be one person ready to adopt any stray, and one that keeps the boundaries in tact?)

I hope by next week I can report that we’ve found a home for Captain, that we got to celebrate many more wonderful recoveries, relieve more loved ones of some heartache during respite and have gentle palliative journeys.