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Jack

- Featured Image

Highly commended — Practising and retired doctors category

When I first met him, Jack was in a hospital bed, tired with cool feet. A small hand-held AM radio was at his bedside softly playing golden oldies, though the radio itself did not appear old. Even in bed, his heavy frame, built to last, showed how mighty a force he had been in his prime. His chief complaint was progressively worsening fatigue, which he blamed on his age. But his physical examination suggested otherwise: the soft, whining systolic murmur; the left ventricular heave; the tell-tale carotid upstroke that felt as though it was grunting against the dead weight of an old refrigerator. All these signs bore evidence of his diagnosis: calcific aortic stenosis. His was a stolid, stubborn valve with hinges rusted quiet, though he was, as he said, old.

Still, he was mentally clear. He spoke about symptoms present or absent, about his medical history, his life and his priorities. His wife of 63 years had dementia and he was her primary carer. He described his daily routine in detail, attending her needs and the needs of the house he had built with his bare hands, making every single brick himself when he was still young and strong. He said the brick-making helped him get on with his life after the war; helped him pick up the pieces, to emotionally repair and nurse wounds without much fuss.

“Was it worth the trouble?” I asked.…

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