Friday, May 15, 2009

Sick Twist

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that the mindset growing up in the West Country, especially the years spent living on a farm, was that you never bothered going to a doctor unless a limb had been ripped off or you’d coughed up a vital organ.

That’s not to say that we foolishly believed ourselves to be of such hardy stock that we could blithely forgo any medical attention. Ultimately it came down to a combination of healthy living and the good fortune that most farm incidents that occurred were relatively minor, which was lucky because when anything did happen it was almost always at a time when seeking immediate treatment would have been more trouble than it was worth.

Bangs and scraps would obviously painful when they happened, whether it was smacking the base of my spine into oak beams when filling a barn with hay bales or having a wood pile in one of the outbuildings collapse onto my leg, but once the pain eased there never seemed any point in getting them tended to. Although the former would cause intermittent problems in the following years from not getting any attention, it was still wasn’t as bad as the time when a big, hefty bullock decided to stand on my foot. That hurt like an absolute motherfucker.

The problem with not going to a doctor over the slightest thing back then is that I still don’t know when to see a doctor now. Without any immediate physical symptoms to display there in the GP’s office, I always feel like a fraud. It may have been because when I eventually registered with a GP – a good seven or eight years after I moved up to the capital to attend The Esteemed School of Art – of the two surgeries in the area that I could have signed up with, well, let’s say I chose poorly.

Until then I’d only needed attention when, at a party at The Esteemed School of Art I’d become quite tired and emotional and a misstep damaged the lateral ligaments on the outside of my right foot. Five or six days after the incident, with the skin around my ankle still tattooed in livid shades of black, purple and blue, I stopped by the A&E department of the Royal Free Hampstead to get it checked out. When the staff discovered how long ago the accident had taken place they decided that, if I couldn’t be bothered to get treatment immediately, they couldn’t be bothered to treat me. I was given a support sock and shown the door.

Still, their mien was much better than that of the miserable bastard of a GP. The few occasions I did need to see him, especially when I returned from a sojourn in LA with a virulent bout of food poisoning, he always made me feel particularly unwelcome. Obviously it was an age thing because ultimately he went down for taking a far more unhealthy interest in his much, much younger more vulnerable patients. Luckily the medical practice I’m signed up with now has far more decent individuals on their payroll.

Sunday evening, a couple hours after my evening meal, it began to feel like someone was inflating a balloon in the right side of my abdomen. This had occurred once before, maybe a month or so back, but on that occasion the pain had subsided after a few hours. Now it just kept on coming. By midnight it was a nightmare. The continued throbbing pain was bad enough, but what annoyed me the most was that this was happening at the most inconvenient time imaginable. It didn’t seem a bit enough of a deal to set off toward a hospital but there was no way it was going to let me get to sleep.

It was probably gone four in the morning when I finally fell asleep. When I woke up, well past the alarm call, the constant ache was gone so I just put it behind me and carried on. Wary of ingesting any food, I didn’t bother eating. Since the hours awake had been punctuated by bouts of vomiting, I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway. Tuesday evening, feeling better I cooked a light meal. And a couple hours later it all cycled around again. Having previously tried reading Roger Moore’s rather haphazard autobiography to take my mind off the pain by, this time around I watched the first half of Lawrence of Arabia. It almost had the desired effect.

By the time I came round on Wednesday I figured it was best to get a doctor’s opinion. Trying to book an appointment can be bad enough at the best of times. With the potential snoutbreak on the cards, it appeared that the centre had already gone into emergency lockdown. Before I got through to their booker, who seemed very vague about when anyone could see me, an automated switchboard message told callers who are feeling a touch dodgy to basically keep the hell away.

Finally I had to shuffle up there. Expecting to be tackled to the ground by figures in hazmat suits and have my head ground into the tarmac before the automatic doors parted and my presence contaminated the building, I simply breezed in to find the receptionist casually sitting behind the front desk with a welcoming smile in place of a face mask. Apparently three days of unsurprising revelations that pretty much every elected not-honourable MP is a sleazy, money-grabbing scumbag thief had wiped the hysteria of impending pig death off the front pages and everything was pretty much back to normal.

She took my number and told me to go home and wait for a doctor to call me. Maybe this was erring on the side of caution or standard protocol, but either way the phone rang at the exact time she said it would. Before I could finish explaining the predicament the doctor butted in and stated that I ought to come in. The last couple days, having stuck to a single bowl of soup and a few slices of dry bread for sustenance, so when I strode into the doctor’s office I was feeling better.

Without displaying the symptoms, and with only my explanation to go on, the doctor couldn’t give a clear diagnosis. He suggested it could be gallstones, but obviously wasn’t sure. So that means come next week I have to book a visit to the local hospital’s radiology department, which should be nice, and then return to the medical practice for the obligatory blood tests. After all that I still forgot to ask what the best thing to eat was. I suspect the best thing to do is keep it simple and not pig out.


At 9:20 am, Blogger Brian Sibley said...

Blimey! Nice to know I don't have sole prerogative on medical problems! Hope you're feeling OK now.

By the way, the 'Doctor-will-telephone-you' is a system in operation at my GP's surgery and works very well. You don't have to explain to an untrained receptionist what's wrong (handy if you've got clap for example) nor persuade them to give you an appointment which, of course, they were always trained not to do!

I asked my GP if having to ring every patient didn't take longer and he assured me that it is more efficient and less time-consuming that having people sitting in the waiting-room for hours or having to haggle with the man, woman (or more often dragon) on the front desk.

At 12:49 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...


No you’re not alone when it comes to medical problems. I didn’t want to mention it in your comments because I thought it might have come across as a tacky attempt at one-upmanship.

Luckily the pain hasn’t come back so far, but then Friday evening and yesterday I was very careful about what I ate, sticking to a piece of fish and lightly boiled vegetables.

The only slight drawback I had to the doctor calling was that on Tuesday evening, when I was about to tell the local newsagent that the redesign of the Evening Standard was rubbish, I discovered I had lost my voice. I hadn’t spoken to anyone all day and suddenly I was only capable of emitting a raspy murmur. So maybe the GP told me to come in simply because he couldn’t understand what I was saying over the line rather than he thought it was life threatening in any way.

I can see that talking on the phone is better than sitting in the waiting room. Who wants to be surrounded by sick people? I arrived slightly early for the appointment and sat doing the crossword while a chap a few seats along sounded like he was boiling soup in his mouth. You don’t want to be around people like that.

Luckily this new place does have some pretty decent staff in reception, unlike the previous surgery which did have its very own Roz behind the front desk. When I went back to book the appointment for blood tests I held up the form and said, rather forlornly, “I have to be stuck with needles again!” She was very sympathetic and we ended up having a good laugh.

At 8:57 pm, Blogger potdoll said...

ouch that doesn't sound like much fun. x

At 10:59 pm, Blogger Good Dog said...


Yeah it is a bit of a pain. When these things come to try you, you can always sit back and say, well at least I’ve got my health!



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