It is five years since the Thursday afternoon during which the telephone call came from the twenty-three year old Dublin medical student. The viva for her first class bachelor of medicine degree had just been completed. Tears filled my eyes as we talked, an overwhelming sense of joy and pride.
Holding the tears back, I phoned my parents home in Somerset to share with them the news. My mother was filled with emotion as we talked, “it’s a long way from where Papa began,” she said.
“It is,” I said, as tears rolled down my cheeks.
My grandfather had been born in Brentford workhouse. Ellen Miriam Poulton, his seventeen year old mother, who was unmarried, would die six years later, in another workhouse.
Perhaps memories can be passed on genetically, perhaps along with physical features there is a genetic connection to forebears. Perhaps the pain and grief of my great grandmother and my grandfather were somehow inherited, such was the overwhelming weight of happiness and sadness.
Five years ago, as the medical training was completed, I wrote here of the sense of pride that names that were once part of an entry in a workhouse register, were now the names of a doctor on the medical register. There were no words that could have fully expressed that sense of pride, nor words that might have articulated the joy felt at her success.
No-one could have anticipated how medical history would have unfolded in the past two years. No-one could have foreseen the entire world being caught in a pandemic that closed down entire societies. No-one could imagined the unprecedented pressure that health services would face. To be a doctor in such times must be to experience challenges that will never fade from the memory. To be a doctor in such times must be to be tested to the extreme.
News from Ireland that the doctor who qualified on that afternoon five years ago had given the Covid vaccine to one hundred and ten people in a single day brought a renewed sense of pride.
It is twenty-eight years ago today that Miriam was born in Downpatrick, Co Down. It was not many years later that a determined child at primary school declared her intention to become a doctor. It was an intention that never wavered in the ensuing years. It was an intention that was fulfilled on that day in 2016. It was an intention that has been a cause of pride and joy.