Call the Doctor is the unique memoir of Ronald White-Cooper, who practised from 1910-1965, through two world wars and across two continents, during a time of dramatic change in medicine.
Ronald White-Cooper’s story begins with his school days then tells of his student life as a medic at Barts in London, a century ago, where he witnessed the first bombs drop at the onset of WWI. At the age of 24 he and four of his friends at Barts enthusiastically enlist. He recounts his experiences tending the wounded on the Western Front and then his fortunate return — of the five students he was the only survivor.
From 1920 Ronald White-Cooper ran his own General Practice in Devon and his memoirs colourfully depict the astonishing challenges and colourful characters the country GP encountered during the interwar years, World War II and beyond. He recalls myriad ailments and how he treated them, the often eccentric personalities that either made his day or confounded him, and the everyday dramas of ordinary people in a rural town. Also included in the book are recent testimonies from his patients, which show how highly regarded he was within the community he served.
He comments on the extraordinary technical and medical advances during his lifetime - the difference penicillin made to a doctor’s capacity to save lives, being able to do his rounds in a motorcar instead of on horseback, and the introduction of the NHS in 1949 – the latter change being one he presciently viewed with mixed feelings. Ronald White-Cooper then recounts the emotional farewells with his Devonshire community and the further adventures of his final working years, spent where his emigrant parents were based, in South Africa.
Ronald White-Cooper had a voracious appetite for the colourful characters of life and the twists and turns of fate, which he observes with compassion and humour. He delivers stories of hope, fear, courage and resilience in a life affirming bedside manner and not without a dose of quirky medical facts. Call the Doctor brilliantly evokes a bygone age.
Well, after reading the information sent by the publisher, there was no way I could pass this one up! It reminded me of Call The Midwife (which I absolutely loved), therefore was really looking forward to it. I picked it up one Monday (the day I decided to try to give up smoking!), and the next morning, almost 300 pages later, I was finished.
I actually really enjoyed reading this. The stories from Dr White-Cooper were fantastic. Some very funny ones there too! Again though, it just made me realise (the same with Call The Midwife), how different medical practise was back then.
The book starts with Dr White-Cooper going through his medical degrees and qualifying as a doctor. He talks of his time working in the fields during the war, saving lives, and patching soldiers up. He tells of the fear and grief during times of both World Wars, and the devastation they left.
But the stories about his patients were the best part. A few that stick in my mind are:
The man (Dr Whites friend) who lost his mind and went a bit crazy
The lady who believed prayer and her faith cleared her cancer
The 50 year old woman who thought she was going through the menopause but was actually pregnant!
The man with breasts!
Honestly, the book was so compelling I could barely take my eyes off it. Those were the days of using a cloth and chloroform when an operation was needed! I liked the fact though that thee book also talks about his family, and how his family grows. We see him marry and have his own children, and we feel his grief when bad times come along.
All in all I loved this book, and I will recommend it to everyone! Such great memories from Dr White-Cooper, and wonderfully edited into a book by his granddaughter Deborah White-Cooper.
Ronald White-Cooper’s memoirs were found in an old trunk in an attic and have been edited by his grand-daughter Deborah White-Cooper, a trained journalist, with a background in television news.