Monday 20 January 2020

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.”

(Mike Farquhar/Twitter)
(Mike Farquhar/Twitter)

By Georgia Humphreys

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.

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.

But this is where the story takes a lovely turn – it’s when his love of comic books was born.

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?”

The Twitter thread is a tough read at times, as Mike details his sister’s time in intensive care.

But eventually, Linsey got better.

And the girl in the comic? She survived too (well, she became a cyborg).

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.”

People on Twitter are certainly feeling emotional – and proud of the work doctors do – after reading Mike’s story.

Anyone else ready to weep a little bit right about now?

PA Media

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