The difference one doctor makes


It’s not often that I get choked up at seeing an ad proof sitting on the printer, but it happened late Tuesday afternoon.

The ad was a retirement announcement for Dr. Brian Myhill-Jones, who has served the community for 42 years as a family physician and is calling it quits on June 30.

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Seeing the notice took me back more than four years, when my dad was in a room at what was then still called St. Mary’s Hospital in Sechelt. He was 86 and had been moved from Shorncliffe in terrible condition. It had started with a dark depression after his “kid sister” Peggy passed away in Burnaby that winter, followed by a bad flu. He stopped eating, dehydration set in, no antibiotics were working.

At the hospital he had needles sticking into him, he was in wretched pain and, when he responded at all, it was in anger. He was going fast.

His regular doctor was on holidays and I asked staff for the name of the duty physician. That day it was Dr. Myhill-Jones. I phoned him at his clinic in Sechelt and asked what could be done.

He sounded somewhat resigned. No, the antibiotics weren’t working. My father was old, he was frail, he had dementia. “What kind of quality of life does he have?” he asked, rhetorically I thought.

“Doctor,” I said, “he was dancing a month ago.”

There was a long silence.

That day, he had a specialist in to see the old man. By the next day, they had found the right antibiotic. By the third day, Frank P. Gleeson was coming back.

It was a lot of work. He had to start eating again. I pushed him hard to get up and walk the length of the new hospital wing, down to the parking lot and into my white 1994 Ford Taurus, a police model.

We usually drove to Porpoise Bay and sat looking at the mountains. He would later tell me that there were people living in those mountains. I didn’t disbelieve him.

I’ll never forget the look on the faces of staff when I wheeled the old Kitsilano Irishman back into Shorncliffe. They weren’t expecting to see that one again.

He lived another four years, and most of the time he was quite content, often happy. He knew how to make the ladies laugh. One of his regular lines was: “Are you Chinese or are you … Japanese?”

Every time I’d visit, he would ask me about the car. It’s a fine car, he’d say. There was no car like it.

“And who built it again?”

“Henry Ford.”

“Henry Ford. He was a good man, wasn’t he?”

“Very good man.”

When he finally did go, March 9 of this year at age 90, it was from natural causes. His body just started shutting down. There was pain, and he was a little tough on the nurses. But I was his trusted pal to the end.

I can’t tell you how much that meant and how much it means to me.

And it wouldn’t have happened that way if not for Dr. Myhill-Jones.

I can only wish him the highest quality of life for the longest number of years.

In my book, he earned it.

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