Sunday 25 March 2018

Healthy Trumps


Donald Trump eating pizza
Donald Trump eating pizza

Neither low-impact aerobics nor incredible genes will get President Trump to 200, writes Maurice Gueret, who is looking forward to next year's colonoscopy

Presidential Sneeze

The great American satirist HL Mencken once described the vice president as a man who sits in the outer office of the White House hoping to hear the president sneeze. What became clear to us in January is that the resident physician at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue sits an awful lot closer to the commander in chief. Dr Ronny Jackson's office is situated just beside the elevator that brings President Trump down from his living quarters to the Oval Office. The doctor gets to meet and greet his patient at least two or three times a day. But he doesn't get to hear sneezes, either. According to Dr Jackson, Donald likes to take care of minor ailments on his own. He doesn't trouble the doctor's office with the trivia of common colds or Band-Aids.

Military Medical

January was the month for President Trump's first state medical. Dr Jackson arranged for his principal patient to fly to Bethesda in Maryland for a check-up at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre. This impressive hospital is named after a military doctor who discovered that mosquitoes spread yellow fever. The complete medical took over four hours. It may be that the president's patience wore thin, as the scheduled hearing test at the end of it was postponed until another time. What we know at the end of his marathon consultation with a dozen consultants is that President Trump is borderline obese, won't live to be 200, doesn't have dentures, and could recognise line drawings of a rhinoceros, a lion and a camel on his Montreal Cognitive Assessment. The Donald needs a higher dose of medication to keep his cholesterol in check, and sleeps only four to five hours a night. What we don't know is his waist measurement (strangely, they don't check this), or how much TV he watches a day. Dr Jackson told White House correspondents that excessive TV watching is only of medical concern for five-year-olds. The doctor also told us about the President's "incredible genes" and of Trump's uncanny ability to combat stress by pressing a reset button at the start of each day. I guess that's the healthier of the big buttons at his disposal.

Donald's Colon

There were other items of interest in Donald's physical. Instead of the usual chest X-ray, they did a 'low-dose' CT scan of his chest. I'd like to have seen a brain scan while they were at it. His wife and daughter are going to be drafted in by the medics to supervise a new low-impact aerobic-exercise regime. More rowing and cycling machines than treadmills, I'd guess. The impression after one hour of Dr Jackson's press conference is of a reluctant patient. Dr Jackson also made an off-the-cuff remark about reviewing Trump's medical records "to the extent that they have been made available to me". He neatly explained an episode of slurred speech as due to a dry mouth, caused by too much Sudafed decongestant. Next year, they are going to do a colonoscopy on Donald at Bethesda. Dr Jackson says he will recommend that his patient is sedated for it. The vice president won't hear a thing.

Billy's Blood-letting

Waterford city has unveiled a nice plaque on Lady Lane to many generations of a local medical dynasty. The Mackesys were surgeons, apothecaries and politicians, the most famous of whom was Thomas Mackesey, an apprentice army surgeon at the battle of Waterloo. He later became president of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1862, no mean feat in a Dublin-centred world, for the son of a rural apothecary. Less widely known was William Mackesy, surgeon in Waterford's leper hospital. So keen was William on blood-letting as a cure, that local patients knew him affectionately as Billy the Bleeder.

Skin Deep

An Irish GP was at a conference on skin diseases in London recently. She attended a talk given by a clinical psychologist who worked full time on mental-health issues of dermatology patients in a local NHS hospital. And it struck the GP that where she practises in rural Ireland, neither the adult mental-health service, nor the child mental-health service in her region currently have the services of a single clinical psychologist. Some of these positions lie vacant and forgotten for years in Ireland. But hey, we do have a new political pub slogan. For 2018 it's Slaintecare. I'll dissect a bit of it for you next week.

Sunday Independent

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