Saturday, January 05, 2008

"And How Are You Today?"

I have a policy, I rarely speak about my health problems unless solicited. I don't mean by a sleezy stranger on a street corner "Psst, hey you . . .how much for you to tell me how sick you feel?" but normally, and daily when people say "How are you?", the natural response is "I'm good thanks" or "fine" by which time the person who has asked is either engaged in another conversation or happily scanning your purchases or packing your KFC into a paper bag. It's become a rhetorical question. You might feel emotionally or physically awful but they don't really care . . so why bother asking?

There are so many people with so many ailments that just soldier on and do it cheerfully. I can't stand complainers when the complaint can be fixed with a Panadol or Neurofen. If DrummerBoy has a sore knee because he's been pushing the base and hi hat pedal a little too vigorously, he's into the Panadol and daubing himself with Voltarin, a hangover always warrants medication rather than rehydraton and a good night's sleep. Having said that, when he's really ill, there is little to be said. He's quiet, contemplative, grateful and sleepy. He doesn't complain, he just tries to get over it.

ClareBear has had allergies and asthma all her life. She inherited the entire allergic gene pool of two families. We thought she'd grow out of it but she hasn't. Probably not helped by a mother who smoked, living in a country with the highest incidence of allergies and asthma and the propensity of animals around the house but . . rarely does she complain. Atrovent, Ventolin, Pulmacort, Diprosone, Prednisolone and Telfast have become her friends.

Then there are the hypochondriacs who think a haemorrhoid is a medical emergency or an ear infection a severe disability.I've worked with folk who take days off at the hint of an itchy eye or because they strained a calf muscle playing netball. One even rang in to say he had a haemorrhoid that miraculously disappeared within 24 hours and a severe back injury that simply wasn't apparent when he returned to work the next morning. These are the ones who as small children needed a splosh of Mercurochrome on their graze to form a red badge of courage or a band aid with Pooh Bear or Bart Simpson on it to make them feel better. The ones that take days off while their sunburn heals because they were stupid enough to think that they couldn't get burned on a cloudy day.

Then there are the chronic complainers who really have little to complain about. The ones who clog up our emergency hospital areas with sniffles and scratches whilst those in real need sit waiting for hours for treatment or miscarrying in the women's loo. I was watching one of those Medical Emergency shows not so long ago and some twit in New Zealand called an ambulance to fix a tiny tin cut on his finger - they administered a band aid! Having recently been in hospital, I noticed many rather pathetic ones who'd had the same surgery as me, failing to comply with post operative instructions. They wouldn't get mobile then complained bitterly about pain and the lousy food.

The real sufferers rarely complain. They take it in their stride, reluctantly but acceptingly I know teenagers with chronic back problems due to sporting injuries, people with clinical depression, 40 somethings who have had multiple organs removed. Car crash survivors undergoing rigorous physio and occupational thereapy with smiles on their faces as eachmilestone is reached. Women of all ages with various gynecological and obstetric disorders. Friends who live with hearing impairment or are barely sighted. Others with diabetes, injecting themselves four or five times a day or coping with epliepsy and hoping their medication will prevent some awful embarrassment. Or some who have as yet undiagnosed conditions that leave them listless for days on end, with chronic pain and no apparent cause or treatment. Friends with sticky tickers and degenerative diseases. And close to my heart, the cancer sufferers who put up with the indignity of drug induced mental vagueness, medical probing and often dispassionate staff while their hair falls out and they face their demons.

It just goes to show that there's always someone worse off than you. Always someone who deserves your empathy (note I do not say sympathy for most of these people lead active lives and would hate to be pitied). So kudos to my friends and family who remain happy and work on their fitness tirelessly despite the nasty conditions they have to endure. I feel very fortunate to have had only one serious operation and such an easy recovery.

I'm sure they all have their desperate moments. Those quiet painful times where only their partners and family see their desperation. But all have a zest for life that I find in too few able-bodied, fit and healthy adults.

So next time you get a cold, don't call it the flu . . take a Sudafed, wash your hands, (colds are transmitted via contact, not getting a chill!). Dispose of your snotty tissues, take 4 days of work, (don't spread it about!). Eat well and drink lots of fluids. And if you're one of those who delights in the Great Australian 'sickie' remember, you too could need six weeks off to recover from surgery or to support a family member through paid personal leave . . .that's what personal leave is for and that's why it's accumulative. I'd have been completely stuffed this past six sweeks without paid leave. And for God's sake come up with a better excuse than those I've heard over past years - 19 year olds with one-day haemorrhoid's, pelease! Grab a tube of Anusol and get on with it. If it's good enough for a supermodel's face, it's good enough for your chocolate starfish!!


Anonymous said...

HAHHAAA, the image on the packet made me feel instantly better until I read what the medication was for! I always think of those worse than myself which is an instant 'feeling betterer' when needed :) *sigh* Talking like a baby now ...

Anonymous said...

Baino was this health weekend? You, Steph and this old crock all on a similar theme. Make the most of the week ahead before you go back to work. Stay healthy!

Anonymous said...

Baino - where would we be without you? You're the best medicine in the whole wide world!

I still laugh when I think of your suspicion at the nurses sneaking up behind you in the hospital ;-)

Unknown said...

Thank God I am healthy.

Kate said...

I've had the same revelation about my youngest sister, who has muscular dystrophy and almost every conceivable area of her non-mental life has been impacted by it (she's smart as a whip, which isn't always a good thing when it comes to disease). She was talking, just the other day, about her plans to apply for college, and how she was feeling a little guilty because she planned on talking some about her disability, and "It really isn't that big a deal to me, I hate to use it like that."

"USE IT?? Mary, you can't jump. You can't run. You can't sleep through the night. If having this disease helps you get into college, that won't begin to address all of the ways it has hurt you in the past."

"Well... I guess. But I don't FEEL like I'm suffering."

I just love her. And it reminds me that perspective is a very important - and rare - thing.

Baino said...

Anony: Sorry to disappoint and turn you into a blithering baby! (nice but tho!) *gratuitous ogling*

Grannmar: you're often my inspiration. I'm fine, it's the others I worry about.

Steph: You of all people understand were I'm coming from. And there's nothing funny about a suppository!

Ropi: You're young, you're lucky. Just be careful when you're skating! And tall people have a tendency to develop sore backs so stand up straight!

Kate: Yeh, she's actually the sort of person I admire to the hilt. She should get all the concessions she can to make her college life easier! It's not rorting the system, it's her right.

Anonymous said...

How true that is, that the healthy feign all sorts of dubious afflictions while the genuinely ill say little about it and just get on with life as best they can. I know quite a few people who endure serious pain and disability with the minimum of fuss, like my sister Heather who's had motor neurone disease for five years. There's nothing more boring and infuriating than people yakking on about their ailments. As you say, just take the medicine or visit the doctor and find something more interesting to talk about.

Baino said...

Nick: My sister is the same, she's been suffering from a chronic illness since she was sixteen but I've never met a more cheerful person in my life!

Anonymous said...

"Chocolate starfish”

What is the world coming to, Heh he. I hope you don’t smoke in the house Miss Baino, your daughter being and asthmatic and such. I am not a moaner as such BUT when I was in hospital I was absolutely terrified I don’t know why but the thought of anyone feeling me up had me hysterical, I can’t understand it, rationale escapes me, I am deluded. I spent the whole time sitting on the newbie’s lap. Other than that I am generally a model patient :-) Ha!!

Baino said...

Nonny: Nah, gave up the nurrells when I went into hospital but I have in the past! I'm not a great patient I must admit. I complain bitterly when I have a piddly virus yet can take major surgery without a whimper. I normally enjoy pretty robust health thankfully. Hospitals gimme the willies as well.