PC 115 Modern Times

Around this time of year here in the northern hemisphere’s winter, most of us will suffer some of the normal round of colds and flu. Specifically, in the UK one reads that the hospital Accident & Emergency departments are overstretched and the wards often full of elderly patients who could go home but can’t because ‘home’ does not provide a good enough environment in which to recover. They have even developed a name – bed blockers; modern times, life in the C21st!

The health conscious (aka The Worried Well) accept the government advice and have a ‘flu jab’, an injection that should prevent the recipient from getting 99% of the viruses around; they are free to the oldies! I overheard someone the other day saying it seems this year that those who have had the flu jab have all got the irritating dry cough that lingers and lingers. Maybe this is just one of the 1% viruses? (See note below)

Some weeks ago I started coughing (predictable huh!!)…… and it just developed into a dry hacking cough that resisted all removal attempts ….. and in case you’re thinking I should have tried that remedy that your grandmother always swore by, I tried gargling with cider vinegar & water (and swallowing … a bit yuk!), I tried Vicks chest rub, I tried Strepsils, I tried using an inhaler – I remember as a young boy bending forward over a steaming bowl of Friar’s Balsam, my step-grandmother’s potion, my head wrapped in a tea towel – I tried ‘Chesty Cough’ syrup …… but nothing worked.

At some point I thought I should just check in with the Doctors’ Practice nurse; not wanting to trouble a doctor, not wanting the general antibiotics, simply to make sure nothing sinister was developing. In PC 95 I wrote about the difficulties of getting an appointment with a doctor in Britain …… but I just wanted to see a nurse!! Even she was booked up …… but then the receptionist said I could have an appointment with a doctor in another practice that evening. OK, I thought, why not!

So one Monday three weeks before Christmas I arrived at The Charter Practice 15 minutes before my 8:15 pm appointment, a little early as I hadn’t been there before and I anticipated some form filling. Implanted in the DNA of us ex-military types is a need to be somewhere in plenty of time. It probably stems from the ‘5 minutes before 5 minutes before 5 minutes before’ regime we observed during our training. For example, if the College had a parade of the Officer Cadets at 10.00, the College Sergeant Major wanted everyone there in perfect order at 0945; so the individual Company Sergeant Majors wanted their own company there in perfect order at 0930; so the individual Platoon Sergeants wanted everyone there in perfect order at 0915 …… you get the drift …….it became important ….. and remains so. (15 minutes got contracted to 5!)

Having settled into the empty waiting room, with its antiseptic coloured plastic chairs and posters advertising everything from ‘Have you booked your Flu Vaccination?’ to ‘Need to talk in confidence about domestic abuse? Call 01273 590276’, I checked my messages/emails on my iPhone. The alternative was to look at either an April 2009 copy of National Geographic or a more up-to-date Readers’ Digest circa 2015.

iPhone 1

At 8:10 pm I switched my phone to ‘silent ring’, in anticipation of the doctor’s call; sure enough:

Mr Yates?”

I walked into the doctor’s consulting room to find him standing expectantly in the centre of his room; we shook hands.

Now, tell me about this cough.”

Two minutes into a little ‘question and answer’ session, he suddenly stopped talking and stared at me. I seriously didn’t know how to react (!) so did nothing, simply looked back.

Aren’t you going to answer it?” he asked, a sense of irritation noticeable in his voice.

Answer what?” I asked, hearing various background noises but none I recognised.

Your phone. It’s ringing!”

No it’s not!” I replied, trying not to cough, but knowing full well the ring tone of my own phone; I had assumed it must have been his.

“Yes it is!” he snorted; by this time steam was beginning to appear from his ears.

Sure enough, in my jean’s pocket my phone was ‘ringing’ but with a strange ring tone!! I switched it off and apologised:

Not sure what happened here: sorry!”

By then he must have thought I was showing early signs of dementia rather than exhibiting a cough, wished me luck and ushered me out. I muttered my thanks. Back in the Waiting Room, before driving home, I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket and switched it on.

iPhone 2

Then I realised what had happened ……. whilst I had switched it to ‘silent’, I hadn’t locked the screen and random pressure in my pocket had somehow, unbelievably, initiated a sequence of ‘settings’ …. ‘sounds’…… ‘ringtone’ …….. and was offering me ‘ripples’ as opposed to my normal ‘crickets’ ringing tone. No wonder I didn’t recognise it!!

We live in funny times huh!

Richard 13th January 2018

PS Just in case you’re wondering, the doctor reckoned the cough would clear itself in another 3 weeks, irrespective of what I did. And you know what? It’s gone. And to concur with the GP’s thoughts, yesterday’s Times agreed ….. “ ….. there is no treatment.”!!

Friday 12th

PPS   Two types of vaccines are available to doctors this winter, Quadrivalent vaccines offer protection against two types of influenza A and two types of B. Trivalent vaccines, cheaper and more often used by GP surgeries, offer protection against only one type of A and two types of B. Of 25 cases of influenza in the south west, Public Health England say 21 are of the B/Yamagata type not covered by the Trivalent vaccines. Bit of a bummer!

2 thoughts on “PC 115 Modern Times

  1. Hello Richard – delightful of course – but regarding your “bummer”, I think the statistics at the end probably disguise the fact that hundreds of flu cases of other flu types would have been registered had not those types been the ones vaccinated against. Beware statistics, do they not say? Michael, NZ


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