I've been to see the doctor this morning.
I didn't mean to. I had to. See, I've had this infection. It's a biff thing. We're prone to it. It's all about foreign bodies. My bladder is in ruins, which in turn damages my kidneys which in turn gives me a bad attitude towards doctors, the NHS (though I strongly believe it should remain free), and a general mistrust of anyone known simply as Mr So and So.
Consultants have no people skills. Mr Singh had nothing positive to say to me at our last meeting three years ago except 'Stephen, you do know that there is no reason why someone with spina bifida shouldn't live into their 60's these days, don't you?' On reflection I'm not sure how positive that was. He spent the rest of the time shaking his head and telling me that my kidneys were 'chronically impaired'. Much like my character and my faith in humanity, then?
So I am in the doctor's room, and I meet Dr Richards for the first time. Dr Richards looks in several directions at the same time, which is quite a talent, but distracting nonetheless. He trots out all the old hits.....'You need to have your bloods done'......'We'll need to take your blood pressure'........'Have you had a flu-jab?'..........and of course the crowd pleasing 'The consultant will know better than me but.........'. He's very little help, but we both know why I'm here. Neither of us are very comfortable with it but it's a necessary evil so let's get on with it. I feel like a virgin in a brothel.
He sends me away to provide a urine sample. I'm being nostalgic here but does anyone remember the days when it was easy to provide a urine sample? Any male with even modest endowment should be able to pee into a bottle, right? That was too easy, so they've freshened up the challenge. Now you have to pee in a plastic cup, drive a plunger with a straw attachement into the revolting, smelly cup, and press to draw your liquid wastage into the specimen bottle. The same specimen bottle that is about a quarter of the size of it's predecessor. The changes are all in the interests of hygiene. Hygiene and misadventure.
It's all a bit like a science experiment at school. The son of an engineer, I nevertheless hadn't the first clue about science and hated every minute of it at school. At that time the science teacher was the worst person I could think of in my life. Thatcher had yet to make an impact, and what I knew about Hitler was horrific but it seemed so long ago. And he never made me spend two hours trying to work out which was live and which was earth.
So I'm back with my bottle of wee and the hits just keep on coming. And the dance begins. 'Take another sample in a week or so when you've finished this course of leeches. It'll check how much protein is in there and that might give us a better idea of kidney function' he says. Ok, but so what? It's all negative. Sorry to sound selfish but there's nothing in this for me, so I'm wasting my time. I've said that before.
If there was anything that checking my bloods or peeing in bottles could achieve I might be more motivated. I've already been told there isn't, and been given drugs to protect what little remains of my blancmange of a bladder and kidneys. I'm happy with that. Ignorance is bliss. Must we keep doing this bewildering boogie every three months when I rock up with a bit of a whiffy waterwork? The medical profession has become like an overbearing mother whose 14-year-old still can't cross the road on his own lest he drop his ice cream on the way back.
I'll take my leeches, the problem will go and I might be something approaching myself once more. I have been a little zombified these past few weeks. I've been drifting, letting the infection get worse because I don't want to do the dance with the doc and I don't want to take any more time off sick. But I'm not completely stupid. I know that eventually there's a stage when I can't just ignore it, when the pain becomes debilitating and I end up on the sofa watching Angela Griffin's day time chat show for a fortnight.
Which is even worse than the dance with the doctor.