Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Questions and answers

On my last visit to the hospital I was asked if I could spare a few minutes to talk to a junior doctor. We won’t have a lot in common, I thought, but there’s no harm in a natter. Besides I quite like junior doctors. They’re just like proper grown up doctors, only with more self-doubt. And because they have more self-doubt, they seem a bit more thorough. They question everything. They re-check and re-examine and if needs be they’re not too proud to reach for their My First Big Bumper Book of Medical Symptoms. They’ll even ask a colleague for a second opinion. A little uncertainty ain’t necessarily a bad thing. Personally I don’t like my doctors to be too confident. Give me a hesitant double-checker over a ‘been there, done that, bought the stethoscope’ doc any day. Anyway so I’m introduced to this junior doctor or student doctor or whatever they call themselves and he leads me off to a private room. We sit down and he explains that he’s researching how ulcerative colitis impacts on day-to-day life and asks me whether I would mind answering a few questions. I’m your man, I think to myself, kerching! you’ve hit the jackpot with me, there’s not much I can’t tell you about life with ulcerative colitis, welcome to Anecdote Central, I’m the Peter Ustinov of UC, make yourself comfy, we could be here for quite some time. And you’re going to need a bigger notebook than that, sunshine. Much bigger. So, feeling like a guest on Parky, I say coolly, “Sure, fire away.” The first couple of questions are a doddle, simple background stuff. I answer succinctly, and as he scribbles in his jotter I’m thinking, this is just the aperitif, matey, merely something to whet the appetite, wait ‘til we get to the meaty stuff. “And what have you found has been the biggest change to your life?” the junior doctor probes, his pencil hovering expectantly over the pad. This is my cue, my big moment in the spotlight, my chance to tell my heart-wrenching story, of the hardships, the pain, of my fears, anxieties and hopes. I have my audience, hanging on my every word. All I have to do is tell it like it is and there won’t be a dry eye left in the house. This is what comes out of my mouth, “Beige-beige-beige-beige-beige-beige-beige-beige-beige-piffle-and-beige.” At least that’s what it sounded like. At this point I’m having an out of body experience. I’m floating somewhere up by the curtain rail watching myself struggle to put together a coherent sentence. It’s like watching someone at a Stutterers Anonymous meeting. Trying a different tack the junior doctor asks, “Has your illness affected your relationship with your partner?” Come on, big guy, I will myself on. By the Power of Greyskull, sock it to him. Nope. “Beige- beige-beige-beige-beige-piffle-poo-and-beige.” The doctor looks up from his pad. His eyes widen, looking for more. It isn’t coming. I dry up completely; I’m all out of beige. The doctor places his pencil on the desk in resignation. I hang my head and through my fringe I mutter something about having a blog which might beige be of beige some beige interest…So if you’re reading this, doc, I hope the words you'll find here will make up for my lack of them in our meeting.