I had occasion to interact with the NHS again recently. A small cut had turned septic. Normally a case of ‘slap Germolene on it and forget it’ but this one had started burrowing in.
I ignored one of these before, 42 years ago, and still remember it very clearly. It ulcerated, I had weeks of visiting the school nurse to get the dressing changed and I still have quite a deep scar. The stuff I had that time was a topical powder antibiotic called ‘Cicatrin’. It worked really well but apparently they don’t get that any more.
This time I thought I should maybe catch it early before going through all that again. So I phoned the medical mobsters and told them what was up. I told them the cut happened about a week earlier, didn’t hurt, just looked nasty so if they had an appointment for sometime later in the week it would be fine.
However, I used the magic word ‘septic’ and had an appointment within hours. They seemed to think I was going to spontaneously combust or something.
Well, okay, I had time so off I went. The local medical centre is just across the road. I didn’t even have to wait long, which made me a trifle concerned. They don’t see you this fast unless you’re nearly dead and they want you to sign the organ donor forms.
In I went and sat in a chair for The Questioning. ‘When did you cut yourself?’ to which the answer has always been and will always be ‘Which time?’ There are more recent ones than the septic one.
Before taking a look, The Questioning has to pass through its Inquisition phase. Even before the Inquisition, there was an evil look and ‘Oh, you haven’t had the flu jab’.
‘No, I haven’t, and I’m not going to.’
‘Oh go on.’ It was turning into an episode of Father Ted.
Anyway, we got past the flu jab nonsense and I was recorded as a refusal. I would have preferred to have been recorded as a ‘feck off’ but they probably don’t have that option on screen. I should have asked. Being recorded as ‘He shouted ‘feck off’ and threw a cup at me’ would have been wonderful.
The septic cut festered merrily away while all this was happening and yet the urgency of that seemed to have faded somewhat. It was now far more important to determine whether I live the approved lifestyle.
I don’t. Never have and never will.
The doc didn’t get as far as diet. I suspect he was concerned for his blood pressure. The smoking question was badly phrased this time.
‘Do you mind if I ask you if you smoke?’
I replied ‘Yes’ and fell impassive and silent.
There were a few moments of eye blinking and then ‘Er… does that mean you smoke or you mind me asking?’
My cigarette case and lighter were in my shirt pocket. Doctors used to be observant in the old days, but this one required clarification.
‘I like a smoke,’ I said, ‘and I don’t care who knows it’.
I might have gone into full sepsis by this time but The Questioning continued.
‘How many do you smoke a day?’
‘I have no idea.’
‘Well, are we talking one pack, two packs?’
‘I smoke tubed tobacco and rollups. I make them when I want one and never bother counting’.
‘So… an estimate?’ The poor bugger had to put something so I said ‘about 15’ which was the second number to come into my head. I wanted to say 13 just to see the confusion at my sudden precision but felt sorry for the computer slave. Also I wanted this damn septic cut sorted out. I seem to be smoking less now the tension in my life has eased and also because I’m model building and writing again, but actual numbers… no idea. Don’t care.
Then the drinking part of The Questioning. ‘How much?’
‘Oh much less than I used to. I used to have one whisky a day.’
This time the eyes closed tight and there was a fist at the mouth. ‘How much now?’
‘Oh I can go a week with no whisky at all. Just beer.’
A big sigh. ‘How many beers?’
‘Two or three’.
There was a shaking of the head and the eyes went wobbly. ‘That’s not possible’.
I couldn’t help grinning. ‘I do it anyway’.
I suspect this is why we didn’t get to diet. Chocolate pop tarts for breakfast would have had me calling an ambulance. And haggis pakora would have had me telling them to hurry up.
Finally we go to the septic cut. That part took minutes. I have some strange gel and huge plasters and it seems to be healing fine now. I shouldn’t have to go back to the doctor about this.
I think the doctor might be even more pleased about that than I am.