This poem was submitted by Jonathan Richards, FRCGP, Visiting Professor of Primary Care, University of South Wales, written in response to reading Why We Revolt. The Patient Revolution team is grateful to Jonathan for allowing us to share his beautiful words.
Threads in tapestries
by Jonathan Richards
for Victor Montori
As I walked in to the Department Store yesterday
I caught sight of a retired teacher, known for twenty years.
Our lives imprinted one into each other, life’s lines crossed.
I will never forget the boiled egg Hodgkin’s gland nestling
in the hollow above the collarbone of her young son.
It was the oncologist who saved his life, I might
have missed it had I not been paying enough attention.
Within the hour I visited another retired
teacher, known for thirty years, for Home Communion.
Memories came as I drove away: her only son
might have died if I had not checked his blood, in case.
I had always feared missing Addison’s; I always
tested. His kidneys were failing; they were caught in time.
A transplant has saved him; now a father of three.
Threads from the tapestry of my life woven into
theirs: mothers, sons and following generations.
Yarn from their lives knotted into mine as we passed by,
changing directions, finding doors open and new roads.
A working life of meeting people, touching, glancing,
becoming entangled for a time. Or for ever.
Discontinuous wefts compacted into patterns.
On both sides.
From Jonathan - I served the people of Merthyr Tydfil, one of the most deprived and unhealthy communities in England and Wales, as a Family Doctor from 1981-2015. I have always had an interest in what happens when people meet with a doctor or nurse. I was a Clinical Director, responsible for quality and service improvements in the National Health Service from 2010-2016.
I have been learning to write poetry and was a Masters in Writing student at the University of South Wales in 2015-2017.
I encountered 'Why We Revolt' and it both stretched my mind and imagination and sang tunes that resonated in my heart. I was especially struck by the metaphor of weaving for the clinician/person relationship. (I prefer not to use the word patient.)
It was in my mind as I arrived at the experiences in this poem and in my mind as the poem arrived a couple of hours later. After putting the words down, I was struck by how ideas from the Primo Levi poem 'To My Friends' had arrived. I have now reconsidered my life's work as a partnership with my friends.