I have a long history with the National Health Service, the NHS, and today I went up to my local surgery, so they could extract more blood for yet another round of tests. It’s now become so regular that I really should book a monthly appointment. What about the first Thursday every month?
I have no problem with needles and I am more than happy to watch it going into my arm and the blood flowing into the phial. The phlebotomist, Cathy, is now a good friend and I happily enquire about her two young children. The elder seems to be a bright young spark. Once she told me that it was always the rugged, rugby player, macho types who normally feint as they feel the first puncturing. It left me deflated. Those were adjectives I would like to have attached to my name but in one passing conversational comment I was reduced from alpha male to wimp.
Today’s appointment is in preparation for a CT scan on my pancreas, liver, and kidneys in mid-February. Before anyone becomes concerned for my future health as far as I know there is nothing wrong with them or at least nothing any more wrong with them from a year ago when they were last photographed. Then they were fine. This is just part of the annual review and MOT process I go through.
It all started when I came back from Dubai and the symptoms of diabetes were first properly diagnosed. It was the summer and I had had a routine blood test the day before. It was warm, and I was sitting around in my shorts enjoying a rare hot day when the doctor phoned asking me if I would come to the surgery.
I know all about trying to make an appointment at the doctors and so I opened my calendar for the next month. ‘When,’ I asked.
‘Now,’ he said.
Even then I didn’t quite understand the urgency in his voice and so, without changing, I put on my cycle helmet, pushed out the bike and rode the couple of miles, uphill to the surgery.
‘Did you ride here?’ he asked as I placed the helmet on his desk. I avoided the temptation to say that I carried the helmet around just to impress and my car was parked outside.
‘Because your blood sugars are so high that had you been here when the results came through I wouldn’t have let you go home and instead sent you straight to hospital in an ambulance. In fact, you should have been in a coma.’
All I can now remember was shrugging my shoulders and telling him that I was very much not in a coma, intended to cycle home and anyway they couldn’t get my bike in an ambulance.
What really upset me from that meeting was that he assumed that I had Type 2 diabetes and I didn’t like that diagnosis. It was akin to telling me I was fat! I might have been fat, or over weight as I prefer, but I didn’t want that label.
He sent me off the diabetes unit at the local hospital so that they could give me the same bad news. If you can’t trust one doctor, then hearing the news from two more should do it. I drove there.
Not happy with the blood taken in the surgery the hospital wanted even more. This was the proverbial Tony Hancock armful. Empty phials were lined up and one by one each was filled and labelled.
‘Do I get a biscuit, cup of tea and comfy bed for a rest?’ I asked.
A withering look. ‘No. Next.’
They now had all they needed to measure every vital function, and this was when they also started to scan and photograph me. It was also where for the first time I met Ann, the CT supervisor, a waif of a woman and a current British international, age group, triathlete. I decided that my stories of derring-do, cycling for two miles with astronomically high blood sugars would not be seen as much, even if it was uphill.
While they were checking on my pancreas, just like a frenzied paparazzi, she said they snapped everything in its vicinity. I think it is the way a CT and MRI scanners work rather than a policy.
The photographs were inspected, scrutinised, and poured over not just by an individual doctor but also, so I am told, by a committee. The last time any part of my anatomy was inspected and studied in so much detail was …. but I had better not go into that story.
There was a tiny lesion on my liver, but the conclusion was that it was just like a little pimple and had probably always been there, or been there for at least a long time, and it would always be there and would cause no problem.
And my kidneys? Well why not? They were photographing all my offal and it seemed a shame not to include them. We don’t want them feeling excluded. Sulking kidneys are not good news. Anyway, they are fine.
But the real cause of celebration, of sorts, was when the endocrinologist (in other terms the diabetes consultant) looked at their pancreas photos from the CT scan and concluded that my diabetes was caused by a severely calcified organ, which, like my liver, had been like that for years and that was the reason I am now injecting insulin every day.
I asked them what I should say if anyone asked me what was wrong with me and she said I should say, late onset Type 1 diabetes. I can cope with that with almost a certain amount of pride.
‘Could have been from mumps when you were a kid’, she said.
‘So, I have done brilliantly not to show any symptoms for fifty years. It’s a bit like a super power,’ I said.
‘Not quite …’ but I had stopped listening. I had a super powered, calcified pancreas. No longer a cause for shame but a celebration of uniqueness.
Not for me just temperature and blood pressure. I know all my statistics off by heart. I can quote PSA, liver function, hormone, and HbA1c data, and that is just the top line. With my new-found knowledge I did have an argument with one of the consultants over statistics. Was the average age adjusted? What are the tolerance levels? Do you use mean, median or mode?
She cut me short. ‘Just take it from me,’ she said, ‘it is good. All are good and better than average.’
Like any good service provider, the hospital has come up with a deal and given me a special 2-for-1 offer. As soon as I have finished the CT scan I have to race up to Urology because they also want some photos, this time of my bladder. It’s the same argument as the kidneys. We want a full set they said, and for these we need to be rather more intimate than a CT scan. I won’t go into details. You may be reading this at work.
The last time they took a bladder photograph I asked for a copy which they kindly printed for me. It was a like an old polaroid showing a baby pink, unblemished surface. I gave it to Sasha telling her it was the most intimate of all porn photos. I saw it as an act of love but the look on her face suggested otherwise.
That was all two years ago and now I have these annual follow ups of blood tests and scans. It all starts again next month.
I am monitored so closely I know all is good and that is why I am feeling very confident that this round will also be fine.
They have taken so many CT and MRI scans that they have a perfect picture of my insides. They have more photos of me than I have taken as selfies over the last couple of years. All my insides have been scanned, photographed, and saved for posterity. Anyone want to buy my next super porn picture?