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Singing doctor shows there are Heroes everywhere


By Nicky Marr


If you’ve seen the footage of a young doctor from Raigmore Hospital singing to a baby to distract her while he draws blood, you’ll agree that it’s unforgettable.

Fittingly ‘Unforgettable’ is also the title of the song the doctor was singing – the toot seems utterly enchanted by his voice. As she kicks her wee legs in the air and looks him in the eye, he works, and sings, and gets the job done.

There’s a smile, and a laugh, and the procedure is over. What had previously been an experience to dread (little Gracey is usually distraught having her bloods taken) became a truly positive experience.

The video of this real connection between caring doctor and tiny patient was taken by baby Gracey’s mum, Sharon Wemyss from Inverness, and has since been widely shared on social media.

After more than 33,000 views of the video online, Raigmore’s ‘singing doctor’ has reacted, saying: “Singing to the patients has always been something I have done. It’s a natural thing for me to sing and when you work in paediatrics it’s fun to be silly and make the kids laugh.”

Dr Ryan Coetzee has only been at Raigmore since August, but as Gracey’s mum Sharon added, he is an “example of a job being more than a pay cheque at the end of the month.” And she is right. Sometimes it’s the smallest things we do that have the greatest impact on others.

Dr Ryan Coetzee became a big hit online thanks to a video of him singing to baby Gracey with her mum, Shannon Wemyss. Picture: James MacKenzie/SPP
Dr Ryan Coetzee became a big hit online thanks to a video of him singing to baby Gracey with her mum, Shannon Wemyss. Picture: James MacKenzie/SPP

This video came to light too late for Dr Coetzee to be nominated for the 2019 Highland Heroes awards – the celebration was held in Inverness last Thursday. But his attitude, of cheerfully going above and beyond the call of duty to make even that one tiny blood test a better experience for his patient, was replicated in every story about every finalist on the night.

It was both humbling and inspiring to host the evening, and to share with the packed audience why each of the 48 ‘Hero’ finalists from across the Highlands had been shortlisted.

Just two examples: Adam Mitchell from Auldern is just eight but has done everything he can to raise awareness of neurological Lyme disease, while struggling with debilitating symptoms and treatment. And 14-year-old Maddie Hayes from Glenmoriston spends her school holidays running creative classes and making videos with young adults who have physical disabilities.

The overall Highland hero award went to a charity that lets residents in care homes and hospitals feel the wind in their hair. Spokes for Folks owns five electric-assist trikes, and each carries two passengers.

Around 80 volunteer cyclists take residents out to feed the ducks at the park, or whizz along the cycle paths at the canal. The difference they are making to their passengers on their 3000 rides and counting, is immeasurable.

Last Thursday evening each ‘Hero’ finalist on our shortlist deserved their time in the limelight. But perhaps the story that had most impact on me personally was about Louise and Mitchell Flett, founders of Leo’s Pride charity, raising funds for research into a rare form of congenital muscular dystrophy.

Louise and Mitchell’s son Leo was the joint winner, along with his cousin Sam, of the brave child of the year award at 2018’s ceremony. This time last year they were celebrating with him. This year, he couldn’t be with them. Tragically he passed away at home this summer. He was just four years old.

Louise and Mitchell are devastated by the loss of their son – he was a fun-loving little boy whose enormous smile charmed all those who met him. But despite their immeasurable grief, the couple’s fundraising continues.

Their hope is that one day their fundraising will finance a cure that will prevent other parents and families having to live the nightmare that they are living every day without their son. Even in their sorrow they are looking outwards.

We all have our troubles, some more than others. We all have days when we feel the world is against us, and that we’ll never achieve equilibrium again. But we are all – if we remember to look for it – surrounded by good people; people who do their best for others, and who make our communities and lives happier places.

It might just be a small kindness, like a song to soothe a tiny patient, or a huge effort – creating a charity to give cycling joy to hundreds. Or it could just be a smile or a hug or a word to the lonely.

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that have the greatest impact. Dr Coetzee, our Highland Heroes finalists, Louise and Mitchell Flett – and the hundreds of other unsung heroes like them – can, and do, lift the clouds.



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