Monday, December 10, 2012

hack hack splutter (probably gibberish)

Sick. Again. I've spent more time ill since I moved to England than at any other point in my life. I don't know what it is about the germs around here but they are unforgiving to say the least. And while British healthcare is tax-funded, and I'm glad of that, I also have learnt my lesson about going to doctors for anything less catastrophic than cancer. Twice now, after bouts of illness lasting at least a week, fever, chills, all sorts of symptoms, I've been told to put my head over a bowl of hot steamy water and breathe deeply--something I do anyway, and tell them I've been doing up-front. It's amazing, with the NHS--if you are sick but it's not likely to kill you or rapidly become a plague, above and beyond not giving a shit about you, they directly express disdain for you. They really want you to go away.

The exhausting thing is, it's not like I'm presenting at the emergency room with a runny nose and a slightly elevated temperature. I'm at a GP, I've waited my turn, I've outlined my symptoms, what has so far been unsuccessful in treating it, and asked for advice. I don't show up the second I get sick, but rather quite late in the game, after I would expect most ailments to have run their course, but they still sit there and eyeball me like I'm some sort of attention-starved hypochondriac intent on wasting precious time they could be using to save children from ultra-polio. Is this some sort of power-trip? Do they want me to feel bad about feeling bad? I'm Sorry I've come into your office with a mere fever and swollen lymph nodes and a painful cough that has kept me from sleeping for the past week. I'm terribly apologetic for inconveniencing you with this trifling concern that has kept me shivering and sweating in bed for so long my real fever has been compounded by the cabin variety. If you are simply incapable of offering any helpful advice or medicine, could you just, maybe, say that? Instead of trying to lay the blame for the wasted trip on me? Maybe a quick "hey, I realise you've been sick for at least a week, I realise your symptoms are getting worse and you're worried, I realise you've come here hopeful that I could help you, but I just can't. It's a virus and there's nothing I can do to expedite your recovery. It just has to run its course. I'm sorry." I would appreciate a modicum of humanity.

Frustratingly, something no doctor seems to understand is, just because I've consented to staying in bed and drinking my meals this week, that shouldn't suggest I'm just a switched-off robot in the closet until I can pick my hammer up again. The fact that I can't bear solid food should suggest that I'm in pain, and while no, it's not a giant tumour putting pressure on my brain, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask for a suggestion if paracetamol and ibuprofen don't seem to be helping manage it in the slightest. No, I'm not asking for opiates or something that would cause withdrawal symptoms. I'm not seeking some sort of recreational high. I'm asking if there's anything that might be more appropriate, that could help me, I dunno, not cough until I'm purple in the face and having back spasms at five in the morning. Why do you think I would have come here if I could manage my symptoms myself?

It's like they assume I should be grateful for the excuse to stay home--that the pain is somehow a fair exchange for the weekday lie-in. Maybe I'm unusual here, but I Like my job, and don't like missing it. If my symptoms were controllable, I'd be there--even if I shouldn't because I'm highly contagious. Wait--is that why I get to enjoy every coughing fit, every wave of dizziness--to keep me off the streets? If I'm not miserable, I'm harder to contain?

I guess mister doctor and I are at cross-purposes here. I've visited the doctor to ask for help for myself. But the doctor's job is to help contain the spread of disease and maintain a healthy, able workforce. Never do you feel quite so insignificant, quite such an anonymous member of the general public as when you're sent home with nothing. While yes, it is more important to keep me away from children and the vulnerable while I'm potentially contagious than it is to eliminate my temporary discomfort, I'm not a fucking soldier. I don't have to man up if I don't want to.

When I get sick, even a little sick, my hearing collapses. While the world doesn't exactly go silent, all sounds muddle into one. If you want me to hear you, you need to ensure you are the only sound in the area and you have my undivided attention. If I'm trying to read your lips, chances are I'm guessing at half of what you say because I don't actually know how to read lips. Even a distant helicopter or clothes dryer will distort speech, so there is no point trying to maintain a conversation on a busy sidewalk or in a cafe. This doesn't make visits to the doctor any more fun--when I say "I've got a cold, just fairly mundane, but my ears hurt quite badly and I'm having a hard time hearing" for some reason this annoys people. I never say "I've gone completely deaf" but rather "I'm having difficulty hearing, distinguishing between sounds--everything is muffled and muddled" and this is apparently not permitted. I had one doctor look in my ears and say "yeah, your eardrums are bulging a bit, just drink some water and that will go down" like I was a stalk of f'ing beef jerkey. Oh, of course, why didn't I think of that? If I keep doing this cactus impression I might never get my hearing back! When I get a cold I spend half my time in bed, the other half peeing. I am no stranger to hydration advice. I also have constantly bulging, painful eardrums. And guess what, funnily enough, several meta-analyses of patient data, accepted and distributed by the NHS, have suggested that antihistamines, anti-inflammatory agents, hydration and bedrest do absolutely nothing for ears like mine. What does seem to do something is grommets, in a lot of cases, but of course that would have to be determined by an ENT. My hearing is pathetic at the best of times, but when I'm sick it's worse and painful. But actually investigating my ears would apparently take money or time or something so I'm ignored, time and again. I suppose I could pester them about it, but I'd miss work. I hate having to squeak to get attention.

That said, I did phone my husband and squeak (well, croak) at him to come home early and make me soup. SOOOOOOUP. I have a guilty conscience when it comes to healthcare--I'm always aware that there's at least a billion people out there who are in worse shape than me, and with whom the doctor's time would be infinitely better spent. But with Boy? I demand soup. NOW.