As a man of a certain age I have attracted the attention of the NHS.
Two months ago I received an invitation to...
"Ring Today To Book Your Free NHS Health Check - Don't Miss Out!"
The general idea being to identify potential health risks which, left untreated, may cost the NHS lots of time & money to put right.
Along with the cunningly worded invitation there was a form to fill in.
I like filling forms in especially the ones with multiple choice questions requiring me to tick boxes.
If I come across a question that doesn't have an answer, c/w tick box, that applies directly to me I write my own answer, draw a tick box and tick it.
The questionnaire asked questions like:
Name? Yes, I know this one and can write down the answer as long as I can remember where I left my reading glasses.
Age? This question requires some basic calculation. I was born in 1958, it is now 2012, subtract one from another and the answer should be my age. I can answer this question if I can remember where I left my calculator but need to find my glasses first as the calculator has a small keyboard and an even smaller display.
There were some questions about how much exercise I take I was able to answer without having to add alternatives.
And that was it, for the first page.
Pages two and three asked questions about my 'alcohol intake' (I'm not sure if my 'alcohol intake' is the same thing as my mouth).
This section was frustrating as there were lots of questions with tick boxes but I couldn't answer any of them because, even if I did know where my 'alcohol intake' was, I think the last time I had an alcoholic drink was sometime during October last year.
It's not that I've stopped drinking alcohol it's just I don't have the time (or the money) to indulge anymore plus I've noticed my behaviour becomes unpredictable if I drink more than several 'units' and a hang-over now takes me at least two weeks to recover from.
My questionnaire completed I waited for my appointment at the health centre.
I don't subscribe to superstitious mumbo-jumbo but having a medical appointment on Friday 13th made me feel just a teensy bit uneasy.
With my tintitus screaming, my body twisted into full Quasimodo mode by my back 'flare-up' I waited in the waiting area:
|Waiting Area 'C'|
I read a leaflet about bladder control (or lack of it), another about bowel cancer and another about vaginal irritation before I was summoned.
I like nurses, even the ones who smile like maniacs, make eye-contact feel like being clamped in a vice and never seem to blink, ever.
I had my finger pricked, my blood taken, smeared on a slide and put into a machine. I had my blood pressure measured, which gave me pins and needles in my fingers, and was asked if there had been any history of heart disease or diabetes in my family (no & no).
I began to notice the phrase "for a man of your age" being repeated over and over again like a mantra.
My blood pressure is very good "for a man of your age".
My BMI is very good "for a man of your age".
(The machine went 'PING!")
My cholesterol level is surprisingly low "for a man of your age".
In fact, my cholesterol level in the lowest the nurse had ever seen "for a man of your age".
The conclusion, drawn from statistical analysis of men of my age, is that, should I continue to follow my current life-style, I have a less than 3% chance of developing heart disease.
Which made me begin to wonder about the hideously painful fate that lay between me and the door marked EXIT.