Over the years it has often been said to me: “I don’t know how you do it – day in day out listening to tales of pain and suffering and complaining; I could not stick it even for one day”.

Yes. as GPs there is no doubt we encounter stories of pain and suffering, both physical and psychological, and often a mixture of both every day. We hear tales of low self-esteem and neglect, and cruelty by friends and family and by people in authority. This is balanced by seeing people recover from acute illnesses and injuries, and learning to live productive and happy lives despite challenges imposed by chronic illnesses of all types.

And it’s not all doom and gloom! There are lots of moments of innocent pleasure. The first sight of a new baby who you have been monitoring at antenatal visits for the previous nine months only to discover he is like a miniature version of his father (or grandfather – or even in a recent encounter his great grandfather!). The spontaneous kiss that is blown to you by a departing toddler – delighted to be going home before you come up with any more instruments to apply to her ears, nose or throat. The overheard conversation in the corridor as a four-year-old says to her mother she hopes to see the “girl doctor” today even though it’s 35 years since this girl qualified. The hug you receive from an adult with special needs – for no other reason other than they like giving people hugs.

The look of love from an adult son to his mother as she introduces him as her sister – he has accompanied her today as she was feeling a little unsteady on her feet; those long months he has spent caring for her since she was diagnosed with dementia rest on his shoulders with grace and forbearance. The elderly lady with dementia who holds you by the hand, looks into your eyes and tells you with great sincerity that “you are lovely”. Only slightly diminished when her daughter who cares for her tells you she says that to everyone who visits her.

The sincere expression of thanks from someone you have helped on their journey of life and the wonderful feeling that comes from knowing that you have made a difference.

In the midst of the difficult days, especially those we have encountered over the past year, it is moments like these that keep us going and remind us of the joy of general practice.

By Dr Margaret O’Riordan, Past President & GP in Tipperary