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A MEMORABLE PATIENT

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7030.545 (Published 02 March 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:545
  1. Irvine Loudon

    No need to worry

    Sally (not her real name), who was a girl of unusual bounce and cheerfulness, must have been about 7 when she developed leukaemia. Chemotherapy had just been introduced and she was treated with skill and total success by the haematology department. After a fairly rough time from the illness and the chemotherapy she was soon ready to go back to school. The trouble was that she had lost all her hair. Children can be cruel and the thought of Sally being teased by her schoolmates after all she had been through was awful. We were all concerned.

    So a wig was made. It was a masterpiece. You would never have guessed. Sally was reassured that the wig was a closely kept secret. No one, apart from her doctors, her family, and the staff at her school would know about it. She really did look her old self.

    The day came and she went back to school. At the end of assembly the headmistress took Sally by the hand and led her up to the platform. The whole school was told that “Sally has been very ill and had to go to hospital, but she has been very very brave and she is now much better, so let's give three cheers for Sally.”

    When the cheers died down, with a wicked grin on her face, Sally yelled, “Look!” and yanked off her wig, holding it high in the air. The children were thrilled. Sally was the centre of attention as all her friends queued up to try on her wig and peer at her bald as a coot head. She had a marvellous day. Sally is now at university and remains well. She is a patient I remember with great affection.—IRVINE LOUDON is a medical historian and former general practitioner in Wantage

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