The professorial finger

You know the situation I mean: your medical adviser thinks you really haven't understood the seriousness of your health problem. 

So he (women are more subtle) wags his index finger at you, calls you by your surname, and speaks in a very slow, forceful way. 

Three times I remember this happening.

The most memorable was in 1980, when I had testicular cancer. In those days they were only just starting to get on top of this particular


The surgeon had removed the tumoured organ, and I was just recovering from anaesthetic, with a Caesarean scar across my belly, and so in no mood to laugh at anything he might say.

He arrived to see how I was doing, and to outline what the future might look like for me. 

"Mr Gaze," he said, "you will be a patient of this hospital for the rest of your life!"

I was more interested in starting to get out of bed and on my feet again.

A couple of years later that surgeon died and my annual checkup was with another surgeon.

After the regulation seven-year check, he pronounced me free of cancer.


Then there was 1973, when 13 year old daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

After several stints in the brain ward at Auckland Hospital, she was reaching the last hours, and her body started to spasm.

I was distraught and shouted for assistance.

In those days, the best brain doctor was Philip Wrightson, and he was on hand that Saturday morning.

"Mr Gaze," he pronounced, but very gently as was his manner, "we have no idea what is going on in your daughter's body; she should have died a month ago, it is only her strong heart that is keeping her alive."

July died later that evening, on my sister's shift.


The third occasion was 1996 when I was checking in to Waikato Hospital for a heart bypass.

The coronary care ward was full of people in light blue dressing gowns marching determinedly up and down the ward.

It was like Queen Street on Friday night.

I asked the clinician who was settling me in what all the activity was about.

"Mr Gaze," he said, "after this operation you will walk two kilometres every day for the rest of your life."

"And when did these people have their operations?"

"Some 48 hours ago, some a day longer."

Well, I thought, if they are charging around like this, the operation can't be as frightening as I thought.

Walking every day is no imposition. My heart attack had happened after a day climbing a 700 metre hill near our home.

I am now 80+ years old and this is my advice: when the doc wags his finger at you, listen to what he says, but take a couple of grains of salt at the same time!


Frank Gaze is a New Plymouth based author and blogger. He often writes for Family Care magazine.