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Reflections on a medical childhood

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 18 November 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1377
  1. Alan Lloyd-Smith

    My father stopped working as a general practitioner just after my first birthday. Initially, I do not think that he knew what was wrong. My mother recalled a medical conference in the bathroom between two of his partners and a specialist. Later, he saw a neurologist at Queen's Square and he was diagnosed as having postencephalitic Parkinsonism. He was 41.

    General practice was his livelihood as well as his hobby, and he was enthusiastic about the new NHS. In 1939 he had gone straight from medical school into the army and he and my mother had a wartime marriage in 1944, with one smuggled bottle of champagne at the reception.

    By the time my memory of my father begins things were already quite bad. To me and my sister he was always kind, cheerful, and encouraging. His disabilities, however, were extreme for a young man. Like many people with Parkinson's disease if he walked he ran, if he ran he fell, and if he fell that was it. He remained determined to lead as normal a life as possible, but bodily functions were difficult when we were out. Until I was 6 my mother would accompany him to the lavatory as he was unable to unbutton his trousers. He could walk, but always had to be steadied.

    He acquired one …

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