This doctor shared an epic story about how his ill sister and a comic book inspired his career
“So, despite all the politics, the difficulties we face in NHS, that’s why I’m still very proud to be a doctor. Cos they changed my world.”
A man has told the moving story of how seeing his younger sister nearly die in hospital as a child inspired him to become a paediatrician.
Mike Farquhar, from the Highlands, said that for many UK doctors the first week of August marks the anniversary of their careers starting. But for the 40-year-old, who is a consultant at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, the second week of August is also important – it marks 32 years since the event that made him want to train as a doctor.
When his sister Linsey Macrae was a baby she got epiglottitis (an inflammation and swelling of the flap of tissue that sits beneath the tongue at the back of the throat) and was treated successfully by NHS Highland.
But four years later she got sick again, and it was clearly a life-shaping experience for Mike.
I remember how she looked and sounded in the car: sick, harsh raspy breathing, her chest working ever harder. It was scary.— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
Mike explained that while their GP said it was just a cold, his mum didn’t believe it – and instead returned to NHS Highland. On the drive there, he realised Linsey was scarily poorly.
“My sister had a respiratory arrest minutes after we arrived in the Raigmore Emergency Department; her airway completely blocked by swollen tissues,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I was, briefly, on the fringes as the ED materialised around her, doctors and nurses suddenly there to try to save her life. She vanished.”
Linsey was taken to adult intensive care, and Mike was taken home by his dad, a drive he says he remembers vividly.
I was a smart kid, with a vivid imagination. I knew she was sick.— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
"Is she going to die?"
Dad didn't know. He didn't lie. He didn't know.
I remember that drive home so so vividly.— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
We drove through a torrential rainstorm that lasted only a few minutes, then sunshine
But this is where the story takes a lovely turn – it’s when his love of comic books was born.
We stopped at a petrol station.— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
Dad, to try to distract me, bought me a comic ... this one: Transformers UK issue 24 pic.twitter.com/qc9ssXtLNS
It was the first Transformers story I'd ever read— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
Shockwave (bad guy) attacks an oil rig
A girl gets hurt, badly
It was "to be continued" pic.twitter.com/EwpTIoGTDP
To distract him from what was happening to his sister Mike’s dad bought him a Transformers comic, which coincidentally was a story about a girl getting hurt badly.
In Mike’s head, the comic girl and his sister were one and the same and he asked his dad “is she going to die?”
I needed the rest of the story.— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
"Is she going to die?"
Dad didn't know that either
In my head the comic girl and my sister got merged
The Twitter thread is a tough read at times, as Mike details his sister’s time in intensive care.
My mum insisted I needed to see her.— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
"No children in ICU"
Mum argued: he'll imagine much worse than it is! (I was!)
She won that one.
I remember her in Intensive Care— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
Small, in an adult world
Vulnerable, fragile - but protected
People all around trying to make her better
But eventually, Linsey got better.
Amongst it all, I remember the doctors and nurses— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
They were calm, friendly and amazing.
And they saved her
And the girl in the comic? She survived too (well, she became a cyborg).
Before she went home, the next Transformers issue came out: the girl survived too!— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
(Tho' she did get transformed into a cyborg. Comics, eh) pic.twitter.com/oW3bBodAT4
Mike said his sister has since read his Twitter thread – which has thousands upon thousands of retweets – to his nieces, who are aged 10 and three, and that adorably they wanted to know if their mum is a cyborg too.
When it comes to why Mike shared the story he said it’s because he’s proud to be a doctor – and that his experience with Linsey has helped him with his career.
“I learnt medical lessons I’ve never forgotten,” he wrote. “Never ignore a parent’s instinct. Mums has never forgiven the GP who told her it was a cold.
He added: “But, most of all, that moment in ED, when the world both paused and everything happened at once, as my sister arrested, is seared in my mind.
“As a paediatrician it was, eventually, my privilege to be there for other kids the way those doctors were there for my sister 32 years ago.”
So, the second week of August marks all of that for me: medicine, comics, how lives change in a moment and how strangers can save everything— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
So, despite all the politics, the difficulties we face in @nhs, that's why I'm still very proud to be a doctor. Cos they changed my world ❤️— Mike (@thefourthcraw) August 9, 2017
People on Twitter are certainly feeling emotional – and proud of the work doctors do – after reading Mike’s story.
I started as a consultant paediatrician in critical care last week. This thread was incredibly moving. Thank you for sharing.— David armstrong (@dearvid1980) August 9, 2017
That was magnificent, thank you for sharing!— Gavin Barrie (@jammach) August 10, 2017
Well written Mike. We're lucky to have you!— R. Hansen (@PaedsRH) August 9, 2017
That’s a wonderful true story. Thanks for all that you, and other doctors, do. ❤️— Janet Jenkins (@janevans35) August 9, 2017
Thank you for sharing this story, your story, your families story❤️beautifully honest, scary and full of inspiration and hope.— ⭐️Siany Sparkles⭐️ (@spencer_sian) August 9, 2017
That was one of the most beautiful things I've ever read. Thankyou for all you do for our children & families. Much love— Mike Armiger (@MikeArmiger) August 9, 2017
Thanks, Mike, it's another evening when it's suddenly gone all dusty here... some's got in my eyes.— Andrew Hartle️ (@startle65) August 9, 2017
Anyone else ready to weep a little bit right about now?