Friday, 27 January 2012

What is it about me and Medics?

Two letters awaited me at home last night, both from the medical fraternity.

One was a tacky computer-generated page of A4, offering a free PAD screening for just £129.  You may know what PAD is.  I didn't, but the letter announced it's potentially life-threatening- Peripheral Arterial Disease.  So that bit grabbed me enough to engage my brain, numbed after three hours of tiresome M1 traffic, to grapple with the free/£129 paradox.  If you hold on, I'll explain their logic.

But first why I wasn't really impressed.  The screening would be held at a local Methodist Church, and the letter boasted that only 61 appointments are available on the day.  I'm not unduly conceited, but the idea of a life-saving screening amongst 60 other mugs herded into a random Church hall didn't all add up being specially credible. But, last year I'd undergone a very impressive hearing test through a mailshot like this, so, who knows?  The letter chirped, "ultrasound... can visualise the build-up of fatty deposits".  No, I felt I was more a victim of a scare-mongering aimed at the elderly.

I re-read it for the freebie bit.  Ah, you get a PAD screening thrown in free if you undergo three other paid-for procedures.  A snip at £129.  I quote: Heart Rhythm Screening (Atrial Fibrillation); Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening; Osteoporosis Risk Assessment.  Fearfully and wonderfully made, as the psalmist said.  Actually, last time my doctor checked me out, he declared, "That's obscene. You've got the blood pressure of an athletic 17-year-old."  I'll stick with that.

So, the second letter.  From "The Regional Department of Audiovestibular Medicine Yorkshire Cochlear Implant Service (Sheffield)".  To you and me, where you get NHS hearing aids.  There followed an impressive list of staff and phone numbers.  To proceed, you need to know that last year I had an MRI scan.  How did this come about...?  How long have you got?  That free mail-shot hearing test sent me running to my GP for an audiology referral.  Basically, I'm as deaf as a post above 4 khz.  Ask my wife.  The Consultant Audiovestibular Physician poked around for a bit, and concluded, "We need to send you for a brain scan to see if we can find anything".  Seriously.

7.00am on a Wednesday found me waiting at the Department.  "Early start," I joked.  "Is this to make sure it fires up and runs okay on cold mornings?"  Nobody moved from their screens.  I swear they were checking the overnight Australian football results.  When the headphones explained the first pass was "just to see if it's working okay", an eerie feeling crept over me.  After all, this was just a glorified microwave, and you know what they're capable of when they go haywire.  With your head in a tubular steel rat trap, and shoulders jammed into a medically approved front-loading washing machine, you have to get a grip on your imagination, regardless of the effect on the brain patterns.

But then no results had come through (they'd found nothing: ha, ha, ha) until I chased it up.  Now the auspicious letter was in my hand.  "The MRI scan has not shown any problems in your ears.  However, they have shown some inflammation in your nasal sinuses which I am taking the liberty of referring to our nose specialists."  Only I can go to hospital for a hearing aid, and get prescribed nose drops.  Why is this?

One day I'd tell you about the time I went for a standard eye test and came away with bright yellow bogies.  

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