A condition of the sole
IT wasn’t until after I’d landed back in Kuala Lumpur that I noticed that my left ankle was swollen.
My right was fine but the left was distinctly tuberous. That was middle age for you, I thought to myself. It was the time when you felt that in a week or two, you’d go right back to feeling fine.
But the swelling persisted and, after the fifth day, I called I, a former neighbour and friend who’s one of the finest doctors in the country. How do I know this? Well, I have his word for it.
He heard me out and said simply: “Come now.”
My wife drove me to the emergency wing in the hospital where he practised and I have to digress here. Don’t you find it unnerving for doctors to call what they do a “practice?”
Anyway, a sympathetic attending doctor attended to me in the interim. In short order, he established that I’d no fever, no diabetes and pretty reasonable blood pressure.
Then Dr I arrived and ordered other blood tests. He looked at my ankle, prodded it critically and declared that he thought I had cellulitis but that could only be confirmed by an orthopaedic surgeon and that since he was a cardiologist, he wasn’t qualified.
The staff were efficient. While waiting for the bone chappie, they performed an ultrasound examination of my left leg to determine if there were blockages in its blood vessels: they weren’t.
By this time, they’d determined that I had to be admitted and I was carted off to a waiting room where others were lying around waiting for admission.
I was placed between a child with a horribly racking cough and an adult who snored with elephantine vigour much to the chagrin of both the child and me.
There are two things about these waiting rooms that strike the astute observer. The temperature in there is sub-Artic and the blankets they supply the patients are meant for dwarves: If it covers your chest, it doesn’t reach your feet and I am not exactly tall (5 ft 9).
The nurse who efficiently inserted a cannula into my wrist – to inject whatever it was they wanted into my bloodstream – laughed cheerfully about the blanket. “Everyone says that,” she declared with high, good humour. You think?
The cold allows you to brood. There are thousands of sinister organisms out there and they are waiting to get you. Bacteria, plasmodia and viruses, all itching for the refuge of your body.
There are diseases called Bright’s, Hodgkins and Huntington’s and here I was, stuck in a hospital where I might just as easily meet Messrs Bright, Hodgkins and Huntington. Even worse, I might even have something that the hospital might name after me!
Thankfully, the specialist walked in clad in surgical scrubs. I looked at him anxiously afraid that he’d just cut off the leg of some poor fellow afflicted with a particularly dastardly case of whatever it was that I seemed to have.
With the aplomb of a Christian Barnard, he diagnosed my condition with a keen glance. “Cellulitis,” he said.
“That’s what Dr I said,” I replied brightly and he looked slightly disappointed, as if I’d inadvertently let the side down.
Cellulitis is a skin infection caused by a nasty bacterium which gets in through cracks in the heel. It is not uncommon to people “my age”, apparently. Indeed, the day after I was admitted, my doctor informed me that a guy had just been admitted with his leg swollen from ankle to groin.
I was aghast. What will happen to him? “No problem,” said the doctor cheerfully. “He’ll just need a lorry-load of antibiotic”.
In my case, it took four intravenous bags and I was out of there in two days. Thank God for modern medicine and great service.