Jackie Bird’s Col­umn

No. 1 Magazine - - CONTENTS -

‘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.

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