“The rose is red, the violet’s blue,
The honey’s sweet, and so are you.
Thou art my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou’d be you.
Gammer Gurton’s Garland (London 1784).
As a spotty, rather awkward teenager, I would have given an arm and a leg for a Valentine’s Card on the 14th February. But as a forty something middle aged, happily married man with three children and a mortgage, it was a bit of a shocker to get one out of the blue. But there it was, staring at me out of the envelope, mixed up with all the other daily mail; clinical letters, pathology results, insurance medical requests, Health Board directives and all the other stuff of a busy clinical practice.
At first, I felt flattered that I’d received some admiration, albeit from an unknown person. But these thoughts were quick to dissolve as I wondered about the motive behind the Valentine. After all, it was likely to be from one of my patients; possibly someone I barely knew who might only have consulted occasionally or more worryingly from a patient whom I knew well, including much about their personal life. Or worse still from a patient who held a grudge and wanted to make a vexatious contact with me.
In fact, it rather unsettled me. I’ve always had a tendency to look at the negative side of things, so it was no surprise that my thoughts concentrated on the motive. I tried to reassure myself that I wasn’t about to be harassed and stalked; it was really nothing more than a bit of harmless fun. I told my wife and she laughed, telling me I should consider myself lucky!
In 2012 the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting presented the results of an online survey that records 20% of doctors reporting that they have been stalked by a current or former patient. In 2002 a 41 year old Sussex woman was found guilty of harassing her GP and issued with a restraining order. In 2015 a 74 year old Gloucestershire pensioner was jailed for the second time for stalking and harassing his GP over a seven year period.
But for me, none of this was relevant. It was the one and only Valentine’s card I ever got whilst working as a GP. And I didn’t get harassed or stalked.
Maybe I should have smiled more.
“For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make”
(“For this was on St.Valentine’s Day, when all the birds of every kind that men can imagine come to choose their mates”)
( Chaucer The Parliament of Fowls 1370).
Written by Dr M Hickey