Siegfried, not his real name, has always been concerned for his health.
Beyond the usual existential angst, achieved upon entering his forties, he became convinced that his cholesterol was dangerously high.
Every Christmas, the card would arrive and we, as a family, would hear about how he had had to avoid puddings and cheese all year round because of his cursed cholesterol.
He was an enigma to his doctors, he would tell us, with several diseases, discovered and named, in him.
Siegfried has been in the habit of clearing his throat, gently but regularly, dozens of times a day, because he thinks he’s fending off the lung cancer that finished his mother, who smoked like a smouldering tyre pile.
He smoked a handful of cigarette stubs when he was thirteen, but never a whole cigarette, and never over the age of fourteen.
A handful of years ago, I had fibroids. For the uninitiated, fibroids are small cysts in the uterus. They don’t usually cause problems, unless they get to a decent size. Mine was the size of a baby’s head, and I was feeling rather sorry for myself.
Siegfried immediately told me he’d had them too. Unless he’s secreting a womb somewhere about his person (something I cannot possibly have knowledge of), it seems unlikely.
I have known him all my life, and he’s never been any different. I don’t say, even for a moment, that he’s never been ill. He’s just never been ill enough to justify his concerns. Until recently.
Now that he actually has a problem, he seems strangely relaxed. Perhaps it is because finally, a doctor is listening to his concerns without immediately pinning them on the most recent tabloid scare article, or the internet. Siegfried has his own copy of the Nurses’ Dictionary, and I don’t suppose that has helped him in his effort to discover what is wrong with him.
However, he is on medication. After twelve years of his prescription, he has now been told that it’s not really a long term solution. In fact, the medicine he has been taking all this time is life-limiting when you take it for several years.
His general practitioner is now arguing with his consultant about how quickly he should lower his dosage, and how regularly he should have his blood tested.
Siegfried watches all this happen, and feels quite special, however I think it has begun to occur to him that he should probably have rid of his GP.
The throat clearing which I mentioned got a little out of hand a couple of years ago, and turned into a full-on coughing fit.
In the final throes of the cough, Siegfried felt something shift. Something deep. Something that didn’t usually move. This worried him but sadly, having spent the previous clutch of years filling up the waiting room and referencing online articles to explain his self-diagnosed malaise, his GP wouldn’t see him any more.
There’s only so much examination that can occur through a phone consultation.
Having been called a malingerer, but not in so many words, Siegfried was fobbed off with mutterings about bed-rest and left with an ache that defied explanation.
Not until his regular GP went on holiday could Siegfried get in for an appointment. The pain in his stomach had continued unabated for some months. A locum saw him, examined him, and immediately detected a hernia. Delighted, because he was indeed correct and there was something wrong with him, Siegfried had abdominal surgery, his hernia was corrected, a decent sized and previously undiscovered growth was removed.
And now he has regular check-ups.
Now, you’d think, having missed the hernia, his own GP would treat him with something closer to kid gloves. Not so much.
Siegfried stood at the end of his own driveway some weeks back. There was a vast pile of acorns on the tarmac.
Placing a mite too much trust in the grips of his shoes, Siegfried turned and went arse over tit within moments.
Perhaps he landed badly, perhaps he had no choice, gravity being something of a beast when it comes to heavy landings, but he needed medical attention. His GP prescribed something over the phone, and Siegfried went to some effort to get himself into his car to collect the pain medication.
It was paracetamol. Nothing terribly exciting there. Siegfried is, if nothing else, deeply respectful of doctors and their qualifications, so if paracetamol was all that was deemed necessary, he determined that was all he needed.
Of course, it didn’t touch the sides.
Neighbours came to visit. A glass of wine, arranged the week before. It took him some time to get to the front door.
They didn’t like the look of him, and took him straight to hospital. They stayed with Siegfried in the waiting room. He had to be given pain meds just to be examined without attendant screaming. He had broken three ribs.
Now, you’d think, wouldn’t you, that he would change doctors immediately? Not even close. Because we all like to have something to complain about.