Jackie Bird’s Column
‘I’m at the doctors so frequently I’m surprised they don’t issue me with a loyalty card.’ “In the past my husband has switched off the computer mid-search, just as I’ve convinced myself my time on earth is so short I shouldn’t buy any green bananas.”
My doctor has had a make-over. Not personally, he’s a fine young chap as he is, it’s simply that the practice has moved from a labyrinthine crumbling house to a stateof-the-art health centre. Now, instead of announcing your arrival to the receptionist and the waiting room, there’s touch screen technology to check yourself in (I hope all those ill folk wash their hands); an abundance of new-fangled diagnostics to keep you from going to the local hospital (heaven forbid) and, best of all, a fancy coffee bar with an array of cakes. It’s what they call a one-stop-shop – you can now give yourself type 2 diabetes and have it treated in the same place. Simples. Granted this health metropolis is home to two practices, but the car park now resembles Walmart on Black Friday. ‘Build it and they will come’, someone once said. How about, ‘Build it and they will fall ill’? I however can’t complain, I‘m at the docs so frequently it’s a wonder they haven’t issued me with a loyalty card. In fact at one stage my attendances were so regular I was a bit miffed I wasn’t invited to the Christmas party. I blame my mother, I didn’t inherit dodgy genes, just a case of chronic health neurosis which gets worse with age. I can’t imagine she was always so worried about being ill because growing up it was rare that Dr Robertson, the family doctor, would call. Dr Robertson had delivered my mum and all her brothers and sisters. He literally knew the family inside out. His physical presence and demeanour must have had a huge impact because I remember vividly his imposing presence: from his Brylcreemed jet-black hair and matching black Romanov moustache to his greatcoat and voluminous Gladstone bag. He looked as though he’d just been called away from the Battle of Britain to make a house-call. My mother would almost genuflect in his presence and his word was law. In fact the only good things about being ill in those days were being off school and getting a bottle of Lucozade. Lucozade then wasn’t the wishy-washy sporty stuff they sell nowadays, this was proper Lucozade, wrapped in orange cellophane. Having a bottle of that by your bedside meant you were REALLY ill. Unfortunately it also meant you consumed more calories than a Tour de France king of the mountains while simultaneously rotting your teeth. Medicine then seemed devoid of technology and entirely based on stainless steel. The steel thingy down my throat would diagnose my usual tonsillitis while the stethoscope would make sure I wasn’t dead yet. Who knew that half a century later technology would enable us all to live longer, healthier lives but also enable us to worry ourselves half to death by selfdiagnosing? I am of course describing my own cyberchondria. A hint of an enlarged lymph node and I’m on the computer like a deranged gamer. In the past my husband has had to switch the technology off mid-search, just as I’ve convinced myself my time on earth is so short I shouldn’t buy any green bananas. As I type this, my habit sounds almost ridiculous. But just almost. If any of you share this condition you’ll know that in the wee small hours it’s terrifying. My own doctor knows of my predilection for self-diagnosing and just points to a coffee mug which reads: Do Not Compare Your Google Search To My Medical Degree. When I am being less neurotic and more lucid I can be consoled with the wise words of my long suffering hubby that most people who go online and list their fears rarely bother to go back online when in turns out to be nothing at all and tell everyone about it. So what you end up reading are the serious symptoms of a comparatively tiny minority. While too much technology might be harming my mental health, it isn’t entirely favourable news for GPS. Those advancing a future based on artificial intelligence claim that GPS are among the professionals who could one day be made redundant by computers. Predicting that mass data and clever programming will eventually be more reliable than a GP. I’m saying nothing. And if you’re reading this magazine in a doctor’s surgery, I suggest you keep shtum too.