A con­di­tion of the sole

The Star Malaysia - StarBiz - - Viewpoint - Speakeasy S. JAYASANKARAN starbiz@thes­tar.com.my

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.

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