Posted by: splosher | 30/01/2010

A trip to the Doctors… Pt 1

Having not been to a Doctor for many a year due to being relatively illness-free, I found it surprising that just after New Year I had to ‘phone up my local surgery and make an appointment because of a long-lived-with-and-ignored ailment which had suddenly bloomed out of all proportion. This ailment has taken on the form of swollen Parotid glands at the back of my jaw-line over the last ten years and during this time they’ve flared up and subsided so inconsistently that whenever I’ve actually sought medical attention the diagnosis is eclectic to say the least: Glandular Fever, a compressed Wisdom tooth, Tonsillitis – even though they’ve been whizzed out along with my Adenoids years ago – and even Mumps at the age of 32 have been forwarded as causes! Also, once the glands begin to billow it’s not just medical personnel who fail to grasp what they’re looking at: I begin to take on the appearance of swollen-headed, thyroid-afflicted chubby and have had friends and acquaintances refer to me as “Moon face”, “Slobbers”, “Throat-master” and my own personal favourite putdown/ compliment regarding this look with a week’s stubble thrown in being a “Turkish Baths’ proprietor!”

Under normal circumstances I can function perfectly well with the raised glands, as when I first awaken in the morning they’re around gobstopper-size but as I gradually begin to function throughout the day, they then shrink down to about marble-size and become indistinct. However, for some reason, this time they refused to abate in size and discomfort, hence the belated Doctor’s trip, so about a month ago I found myself sitting in a waiting room gazing at a rotating red LED sign, wishing my name to appear so I could disappear from my fellow waiting patients. Now, I don’t have a problem with other people: I’m not overly socially deficient nor am I claustrophobic or agoraphobic but there’s just something about a Doctor’s waiting room that causes a general unease within myself and I’m sure if people were honest, within a majority of other visitors as well. Perhaps it is the close seating proximity we find ourselves forced into with unknown new neighbours encroaching upon our own personal space uninvited or the fact the air inside always seems to be a strange combination of sterility and staleness, topped off with a faint hint of Pine, but I always want to get out as soon as humanly possible.

So, with a flop sweat beginning to shimmer on my forehead and a rapidly constricting airway due to the rising stress of “wasting time and hanging around”, I turned on my MP3 player to drown out the rest of the moronic guff emanating from the rest of the poorly morons. This is tricky but your music has to be loud enough to block-out the yapped dross from your new and close, personal friends but not too loud to obliterate the LED sign’s “You’re next!” beep indicating your chance to escape the confinement of lacklustre smiles and forced pleasantries. A quick, hope-filled glance at the LED sign – “Mrs. Bentham” rotated past in red and a large, middle-age lady breathlessly got to her feet and waddled off down a corridor towards the Doctor’s examination room – and I decided to lose myself in a corners-worn and cover-torn magazine from a nearby pile.

Turning the magazine over, I found myself peering at a copy of OK! Magazine from late 2006, its ripped cover showing the bottom halves of a couple at their wedding but I had no idea who they were as their story’s heading was missing. Suddenly, the double doors of the waiting room were thrust wide open and two women stagger to the receptionists’ counter facing were I’m sitting and above my MP3 I heard, along with everyone else, one of the women shout “I’m going to be sick!” whilst the other woman said “Have you got something for her? I think it’s that Norovirus!”

Now, every winter we’re told via the media that somewhere in the UK there has been a Norovirus outbreak – which is a seasonal vomiting and diarrhoea 48 hour bug – across some borough or other: then the cases are reported via our media akin to an actual Zombie holocaust which has been inflicted upon the general populace. Please don’t get me wrong; it is a horrible, bowel-evacuating illness but after two or three days you’re on the mend and not seeking to quaff someone’s brains, even though you probably really do look like a Zombie after your bodily fluids have been sapped. The real problem these two fools helped to highlight was apparent to all of us who were now sitting within spewing distance: you are advised to stay indoors and NOT to go to public places because Norovirus is highly-infectious and spreads like wildfire so now a room full of people were at threat of developing their own watery squits and vocal tossing thanks to a couple of idiots.

Just as I sat transfixed staring in disbelief along with my seated companions at the retching tool before us, I heard the LED beep and flicking my eyes upwards, was greeted with my name shimmering in red neon. In an instant, the magazine’s been tossed back onto its pile and I’m on my feet, striding purposely down the corridor towards the Doctor’s office, thanking God as I went for a mercifully short stay in the waiting room of illness. I almost knocked over “Mrs. Bentham” as she was unsteadily passing-by in my eagerness to avoid a three-day bender of projectile vomiting and she threw me a cold, hard look of annoyance and confusion. I carried on to the Doctor’s door and as I turned the handle all that could be heard nearby was the sound of female retching, liquid splashing and other peoples’ disgust echoing along the corridor. I walked through the door.

I’ve had the same family Doctor for nearly 40 years, so he’s seen me grow from being a child to what now stands before his eyes and although I have not happened upon him for many a year, he immediately spotted my problem and began prodding and poking my jaw-line, asking me questions whilst doing so. All I could utter in response was that they’re not painful as such, just uncomfortable and I’m pissed off with them, basically: I then watched him scrunch up his face and shake his head as I stated all the misdiagnosis over the last 10 years, which had occurred while I’d lived away around the country, so he’s in the clear and I’m unable to instigate a “but Doctor, you said it was…” diatribe. He allowed me to continue yapping without really paying any attention to what I was saying, apart from the usual umming and ahhing accompanied by a head nod here and there as he was scribbling out a prescription, followed by a quick peer down his nose to double-check the relative size of my Parotids.

“Well, your glands are badly infected with a virus, so I’m prescribing you a strong anti-biotic which you must take as directed, without fail, do you understand?” the Doctor said as he finished writing.

“Yes, okay Doctor, no problem” I said taking hold of the barely-eligible scrap of paper, which resembled a journalist’s shorthand scrawl.

“You take 4 tablets a day, 1 every 3 hours for the first week, then you take 3 tablets a day, 1 every 4 hours for the second week, then you take 2 tablets a day, 1 every 6 hours for the third week and finally you complete the course with 1 tablet a day taken around midday for as many weeks are remaining until the tablets run out, okay?” He stated with a stern look which came across as if he was thinking “I’ve known you all your life and I’m sure you’ll manage to f**k this up somehow and just end up coming back here moaning about your massive glands!”

Standing up and opening the door, I said “I think I’ve got it Doctor, many thanks” and left, already feeling pepped-up with my Doctor’s reassurance and wondering if the tablets he’d signed off for me were anything other than placebos. The faint smell of vomit hung in the air of the waiting room and as I whizzed on through towards the Pharmacy, I spotted the look of horror across the other patients’ faces as they tried to avoid staring at the two women from before: gasping of breath between throwing chunks, her friend was wiping her mouth and saying “There, there it’ll be fine, don’t worry, everything will be okay, Love”. Tucking my chin downwards into my coat’s upturned collar, I attempted to quell the onslaught of the sickly smell wafting about the area and even though I breezed through in a couple of seconds, it was a stench that clung upon you for a while.

I was straight into the Pharmacy clutching my gland-reducing remedy and after a little confusion regarding which boxes to tick and where to scribble my signature on the back of the thing, I handed it over to the lady serving behind the counter. “That’s £7.80 please” she stated matter-of-factly, but she had to repeat her words once more due to my incredulous response to her original statement. “Eh?! How much?!” reverberated around the small, kiosk-sized room, which caused the only other person waiting – an old man wearing two hearing aids and jam-jar bottom glasses – to cackle with laughter and say overly loud “It’s a bloody joke, in’t it, eh?!” Shaking my head out of genuine shock, I pulled out my last £10, which I had intended to use to buy some bread and milk in order to stave off imminent malnutrition but now had to spend on my supposed medicinal salvation instead.

As I flopped down into a spare chair and lazily perused the heal-all items on the shelves facing me – nicotine gum, flu remedies and tooth repair kits to name a few – the lady behind the counter told me that there would be a little wait due to the computers being down at the minute. This I accepted with the good grace of a man whose stomach was beginning to grumble due to lack of simple wares such as bread and milk, things which had suddenly been elevated to something akin to Ambrosia, unattainable until payday. “I wonder if I can get sustenance from these tablets?” I thought while I waited and began to imagine making an anti-biotic pie, something which was both interesting and strange in equal measures. Suddenly, there was a man’s voice, “Mr.——?”

“Yeah,” I said as I stood up and walked over to the Pharmacist, who was clutching a white paper bag with “Pharmacy” printed across it in green lettering. “What is your address, Mr.——?” he asked as a simple security check and once he seemed satisfied with my answer, he opened the bag and pulled out three yellow and white boxes of red tablets. “Right, the problem we’ve got this morning,” the Pharmacist stated “is that our computers are all down, so we’ve got your tablets here but we need to know if you got any instructions on how to take them from your Doctor?” I stared at him blankly and he peered back at me expectantly for my answer, which truth be told had gotten slightly lost within my consciousness, perhaps due to lack of food, feeling ill with the glands or just a through a combination of lethargy and forgetfulness, so I illicitly nodded at him. “Yep, he told me how to take them, so nothing to worry about!” slipped through my fake-smiling lips and he handed the bag to me just as I was thinking of that scene out of Dirty Harry when Clint Eastwood says “Did I fire six shots or only five?!” which seemed apt when trying to recall the confusing ramble of numerical strata my Doctor had given me to follow.

So, that was that; I’d traded my food money for medicine and hopefully I’d make it through to pay day in one piece, albeit maybe slightly thinner with a craving for toast and milky tea. Just as I was turning to leave though, I heard the Pharmacy door open behind me and then a voice loudly say “Quick! I think I’m gonna be sick again!” Needless to say I was out of that place in the blink of an eye, back home in record time and indulged in a vigorous scrubbing in order to wash away any traces of that simpleton’s Norovirus, armed with a couple of weeks worth of tablets and nothing else.

*The return trip back to my Doctor’s surgery will be relayed in another future blog entry, so check back for that one.*

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