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Doctor Grandad aka Dr Cecil Cyrus

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The Point of View article of Dr Adrian Fraser of July 20, 2012 is reprinted in its entirety below. When it was first published last Friday, parts of the article were omitted.

A facsimile, captioned ‘Dear Doctor Grandad’, that was addressed to Dr Cyrus on his 73rd birthday by his granddaughter Rebeka, provided the title for his latest book that chronicles his experiences with his ‘little patients,’ including his own grandchildren. In selecting that caption it occurred to him, that it best captured his responsibilities as parent and doctor.{{more}} Dr Cyrus is an amazing individual, well disciplined and organised. To have recorded many of the anecdotes arising from his encounters as an obstetrician and paediatrician with children whom he assisted in their journey from egg to human being is in itself remarkable. In recording these he was assisted by parents who also complemented his observations with records of their own. The mothers themselves formed an essential part of “Doctor Grandad” for he regards women, particularly mothers, as central to human life.

As with his earlier publication, A Clinical and Pathological Atlas: The Records of a Surgeon in St Vincent, this book is based on his work and experiences, although targeted at a different audience. The book is dedicated, the author says, “with heartfelt gratitude and affection to all our little patients, now grown up, for enriching the lives of my wife and myself by the fun, happiness and diversion they provided almost daily during the many years of our practice.” It is, however, much more than that, for many of his little patients, now grown and their parents would savour those moments as captured by Dr Cyrus. As an aside, for those ‘little patients now grown up’ it will be interesting to determine to what extent those early sayings and encounters are reflected in their personalities today.

The book, Doctor Grandad, could only have been written by someone with a love for children. But it goes even deeper than that for Dr Cyrus is grounded in a philosophy “that all children belong to everybody everywhere in the world,” but that their “intimate and immediate care (is) entrusted to two persons”, clearly one, with the single parent and more than two when the extended family is in place. Although the focus of the book is on children who passed through his hands as obstetrician and paediatrician, it also relates to all children and will be of interest to all those who deal with children, whether as parents, guardians, pre-school teachers or any others encountering children in any particular area of their lives. In fact, the author makes a call for parents and guardians to record and share the “sayings and healthy aberrant conduct of your own little ones.” This would be an extension of his work, which he calls a “humble contribution from the heart to the heart.”

Perhaps the most interesting sections of the book are those that deal with the language of children, their “clever answers and comments”, their “clinical observations,” accusations and discontent, descriptions and distortions and bluntness. When a pre-school child was asked what was bothering him, his answer was that he was getting a tonsil. He actually had mumps. One complained to him that she had pain in her brain, ears, throat and tummy. When he asked a three-year-old boy what he was going to be when he grew up, his reply was “A big boy”. Then there was the five-year-old who, after receiving vaccinations, complained to his father that the doctor had stabbed him. It is this kind of amazing stuff that will keep you amused and encouraged to read the book.

The most endearing chapter is the one on “Motherhood”. Women in this process and in the human life cycle are special. The author states, “After the male deposits his sperms in the vagina, his job is done as regards the growth and survival of the foetus. It is the woman who carries the baby … The male never has to endure the agony, the colic of labour, as the womb struggles valiantly to expel its temporary guest.” Having a baby is to him “the greatest and most signal achievement of any human being”. He notes that whenever there is a verbal assault on a mother it triggers off “fierce conflict, verbal or physical.” Never so with the father. All of this has led him to make a very profound comment about women and politics. He said, “I pray for the day when all or most of the leaders of the world will be women, for the earth will be a much better place in which to live. Women will use the heart more and the brain a little less in the ordaining of things. For women are, by nature, instinctive, compulsive mothers to everyone regardless of his or her genetic origin.”

Dr Cyrus is a true “Renaissance man”, a Latin scholar at school who was forced into natural sciences in order to achieve his ambition of becoming a doctor. His book is graced with quotations from Shakespeare and the psalms and portrays an individual who is very holistic in his understanding of life and in the chronicling of his experiences.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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