A recent viral infection took me to A&E (I said I’d walk but it insisted on driving). It’s been quite some time since I was last admitted, and I was reminded of how scary hospitals must be to the uninitiated and previously well. That said, is anyone really ever well? Or are we all just in a blissfully unsuspecting stasis of pre-diagnosis? In my occasional moments of ‘why me’ melancholy – “why did I have terrible acne, why did I get sick, why do I have to put my plate in the dishwasher?” – I can draw cheer from looking at the general public as I pass them in the street and with a wry nod and a smile, know that thanks to the ‘big 5’, around 0.3% of them will die from a horrible illness. And whilst that doesn’t sound like a lot, its approximately 200,000 of you, or about 199,999 more people than read this blog. If you’re the judicious number ‘1’, then get yourself checked out immediately; should something nasty be ‘caught’ early and successfully treated, then at least reading this drivel will have had a positive outcome. And as for the other 199,999 of you, well it serves you all right.
Should you be diagnosed with one of the ‘big 5’, you can lighten the mood in the consulting room by comparing your illness to one of the similarly categorised ‘Big 5’ Game animals, sometimes seen majestically striding the Savannah or heroically displayed on the wall of a Dentist’s waiting room. Of course, instead of catching a Lion, Leopard, Rhinoceros, Elephant or Cape Buffalo on your camera and taking home precious Safari memories, you’re having a Stroke, or you’ve ‘caught’ Heart Disease, Cancer, Lung Disease or Liver Disease and you’ll be taking home an A5 leaflet called ‘Coping with Illness’ written in comic sans, a big green bag of drugs and an all-encompassing feeling of doom.
And whilst you’re probably taking comfort from thinking you can’t actually catch any of these, I’d like to add a little extra seed of concern to your list of daily worries about missing the bus, downloading malware and that spreading damp patch on the bedroom ceiling; you can become medically obese from catching the ADV36 cold virus, there IS a bacterial infection that can cause diabetes and there are ongoing studies into the probable link between specific viruses and their triggering of cancers. Suddenly that damp patch isn’t worrying you anymore? Well it should because the moulds associated with damp conditions produce irritants and toxic allergens, that can cause respiratory complications and Asthma, a condition effecting over 5 million people in the UK and causing over 1000 deaths annually. You can put that on your list too.
Now get out there and enjoy yourselves, whilst you still can.
I feel you are missing something about learning to dance in the rain in this piece…
I love the idea of a medical Big Five but perhaps we should fall in step with popular culture and go for a Top Ten. This would have the added bonus of bringing many more people within the hospital corridor of uncertainty plus all diagnoses could be delivered by a pre-recorded Tony Blackburn. However, we had better get him in the sound booth quickly; the Big Five and the Top Ten might combine to kick him off to the celestial turn table without warning.