For the last two years I’ve joined in the #atozchallenge, namely to post every weekday in April using each letter of the alphabet in turn. In 2015 it was places I’d been to, in 2016 it was London themed. This year it is a dictionary of my family, recounting incidents small and large that have taught me lessons down the years, caused me consternation or generally seared themselves into my memory. I hope you enjoy them. To find other bloggers doing the challenge and maybe be inspired yourself, check out the A to Z Blogging Challenge Blog, here.
If there’s one thing that crops up in medicals it’s the family heart. Or heart history. We seem to have a bit of a thing about heart issues. Both mum and dad were on Warfarin at the back end of their lives both needing some sort of jump start to try and correct atrial fibrillation – this thumping electro shock treatment is called cardioversion but sounds more like a style of buttoned up knitwear. Dad found it funny that he was voluntarily ingesting rat poison to keep himself alive. In addition my mother had high blood pressure – she took so many tablets she rattled – and my uncle had angina and other heart related issues. There’s definitely a thing in our bloodline.
So it was that I was sent for a medical when offered a partnership at my law firm and asked about family health issues. I’d not put two and two together – I’d just turned 30 and felt as fit as several small jumping insects – and was surprised when they suggested I had an ECG. ‘Just a precaution, Mr Le Pard’ he said with a face like a Wet Wednesday in Wensleydale.
There’s this training doctors have to go through, which is probably why medical training is 5 years. It’s all to do with facial contortions. They have to have off-pat a set of expressive warnings that all patients are hardwired to comprehend – they mimic those of our primate ancestors who, when living in trees, needed to be able to warn others that flesh eating chewopods were grazing on the jungle floor without actually making any noise. It takes a minimum of 10,000 hours to learn and this medic was an expert in the imparting-terror-through-eyebrows technique. This particular grimace-cum-frown combo told me that, while death wasn’t guaranteed it was as close as made no difference.
I like to think of myself as calm, stoic even but deep down I have a distinct leaning towards hypochondria. That comes from my paternal grandmother who lived to a decent age (92 from memory) but suffered from any number of vague or generalised aches and ailments – rheumatics, short breath, digestiveness and, of course, bowels (movements and/or lack thereof).
I sat, shifting uncomfortably for what I assumed would be challenging if not downright bad news. He had urine samples and blood tests as well as lung function and, of goodness knows. He smiled; I imagine Dracula smiled. Why do they assume that helps? It’s bloody words I needed not gestures.
Oh for pity’s sake, how long have I got?
‘Your heart is fine. Dandy even. All the pointers suggest you are a healthy young man.”
Ok, pendulum definitely on the uptick.
‘Your Uris acid levels are enhanced.’
Drrrh? ‘What’s that mean?’
The doctor did his best to keep a straight face. ‘You may have a tendency to gout.’
Gout. I mean that’s for old men and port drinkers. Still if that was the extent of the problems I think I was going to be okay.
In fact my friends and work colleagues thought it funny. After all who considers gout at 30? I told mum, thinking she’d find it funny too.
‘Your uncle has gout. It’s very painful. Maybe it’s hereditary.’
Suddenly I wasn’t laughing anymore. Teddles, my uncle did suffer later on especially but unlike me he was truly stoic.
I’ve kept a watch on these acid levels ever since. And my heart. And prostate (dad’s cancer was prostate). And blood pressure (mum’s). And arthritis. Oh and all sorts. I’m a regular at these check up thingies you can get. I’m always wondering if the latest creak or bulge or ache is the precursor to something fatal.
At least, with google I can self diagnose… or be like mum and just get on with it…