A piece for the church newsletter, provoked by my son who asked pertinent questions last week
I’ve been to A&E twice recently. It was very quiet, in contrast to what it was like BC – before covid. I hear that GP surgeries are quiet too because people are nervous about going. What with the virus and all, people are anxious about lots of things, especially their health – or lack of same. This is because they’ve not been taught properly about human biology. I thought I’d begin to rectify the defect.
The first and most important rule is: it’s probably not worth going.
- When cats and dogs are ill, they lie still until they get better. On the whole, we get better despite doctors, not because of them.
- Surgeries and hospitals are full of ill people so you might catch something.
- People die in hospitals, so if you don’t go, you won’t die (there’s a logical fallacy there).
- Doctors sometimes don’t listen: they jump to conclusions because they’re in a hurry to get rid of you due to government rules.
- Doctors often don’t know, but they bluster because you expect them to know everything.
Now, read my lips: if you can’t see blood, if you can walk and talk normally, if your excretory functions are more or less as usual, and if you have only a few aches and pains, stop moaning and don’t be such a wuss. It’ll probably get better on its own, though you may die first.
Sometimes, though, needs must.
- Blood belongs in blood vessels – end of. If you see blood where it shouldn’t be, take action. Of course, if you cut yourself, you’ll bleed – I don’t mean that.
- Broken bones, torn ligaments and torn tendons need fixing. If it’s not a bit better after a few days, find a joiner.
- Plumbing. This is a biggie. There are lots of pipes in the body: blood, lymph, food, digestive juices, piss. They can get blocked, they can leak.
- Always look at your faeces. Any inexplicable change in colour, consistency or smell needs attention. Blood on or in stools or on bog paper is suspicious unless you can account for it (e.g. piles). Dark stools might mean bleeding higher up, perhaps in the stomach, the blood being digested on the way down giving dark turds. But be sensible: if you had six pints of Guinness last night, don’t be surprised if the turds are dark. If you’re on iron tablets likewise. Use common sense if the Guinness has left you with any.
- If you’re constipated, you probably need to adjust your diet. There are other more serious causes, but common things are common so we’ll stick with common.
- If you’ve got the squits, chances are you’ve got an infection. Let it out. Diarrhoea is the body’s way of expelling the irritating agent, so don’t take things to bung yourself up.
- Urine: again, blood or inexplicable change always need attention.
- The combination of pale stools and dark urine is serious. Bile (gall), dark green, passes in a tube from liver to intestine to help digest fats. If it doesn’t get there (gall stones or some other blockage) stools will be pale and, because fats are undigested, fatty and floating. Bile needs to get out somehow, so it passes into the blood, makes the skin yellow (jaundice), and is excreted by the kidneys into the urine, so the urine is dark. Gallstones are usually associated with pain and are easily dealt with, but other causes of blockage are not. The bile duct passes through the pancreas so pancreatic cancer can block it. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer is well advanced so it’s time to contact an undertaker.
- Electrics: nerves and brain. Funny turns, weakness, tingling, numbness, paralysis, and so on. Doctors like to know what the cause is, and if it’s something pressing on the brain or nerves, then there’s hope. Otherwise, little can usually be done except easing the symptoms. Nerves recover very slowly if at all. If part of the brain is wiped out, another part can sometimes be trained to take over its function, but it’s very slow and unpredictable.
Some people think that disease is a punishment from an irascible sky pixie for stuff you’ve done or not done. This is drivel. We are machines. Machines break down. Things go wrong. Sometimes they can be fixed. Sometimes they can’t. Sometimes the treatment is worse than the disease so it’s better to put up with it, though this may be a great burden for you and those you live with.
Take responsibility for yourself. If you stuff your face with cream cakes don’t be surprised if you get fat and suffer from the diseases of obesity. And don’t expect to feel at 65 as good as you did at 20. Get real.
You’re going to die, and you don’t know when, so no matter how young you are, make a will, get your affairs in order, and make peace with those you feel you need to (but don’t go overboard – some people are gobshites and they’re not worth the effort).
Meanwhile, keep smiling, and remember that life is a terminal condition.