Sunday 17 December 2017

Mid-life crisis: Getting the value from your doctor

Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Signs you're getting older number 3,027. I now know the people in the chemist as well as I know the people in the supermarket. I would stop short of saying they greet me like a long lost friend. It's more like polite tolerance. But there's no doubt they aren't surprised to see me. Along with all the oul wans, I am a regular.

Back when I used to be able to travel a bit more adventurously I was always amazed at the prevalence of chemist shops in remote rural towns on the continent. You'd be up a mountain somewhere on an island and you'd come across a village with no bar or restaurant but two chemist shops. And often they seemed to be the main gathering place for the local oldies. After siesta time, there'd be a queue of them outside waiting for it to open.

I never really got it back then. Back then, to me, the bare necessities in a town would have been somewhere to eat and drink and buy food and water. But now I get it. Now I realise that when all other businesses have failed, there is always room for a chemist. The ability to get a prescription filled is the last thing to go in dying towns in Europe. It's the only thing left giving the place some dignity, and separating the people from the animals.

I love a chemist shop these days. And I like to get my value. I have taken to heart the notion that we should try the chemist before we go bothering the doctor. The chemist, obviously, is also free. And I find, if you're brazen enough you can ask your chemist about more ailments than you'd get past a doctor.

So I go for the full service model of the chemist. Indeed I was a bit shocked when my regular chemist admitted defeat last week and told me to go to the doctor. Most chemists will tell you not to bother with the doctor for your normal cold and flu type ailments, and they're right. But we'd been battling this one together for two weeks, me and the chemist, so she reluctantly passed me on to the alleged professionals.

Obviously once I had decided I needed to see a doctor, I suddenly started feeling very gravely ill indeed, and realised that having put it off for two weeks, I needed to see the doctor NOW. So my wife said she would make an appointment with the out-of-hours service. I was a bit reluctant. Which she tried to suggest was a touch of racism on my part. "Are you worried they won't be Irish and speak English? They usually are." I assured her it was just the idea of it being a stranger. Anyway, at this stage, I was at death's door, so I took a chance on a stranger. I emerged an hour later triumphant, with four - count them - four, prescriptions in my paw. I even had one that was a just-in-case prescription. Insurance!

I went in with what was primarily a nasal complaint but this guy was really thorough, gave me the complete once over and found an eye and an ear issue as well. You wouldn't get that from a regular doctor. And obviously it's a shame to have to cave in on the free advice from the chemist and actually pay for a medical consultation but it took some of the sting out of it that I got four prescriptions. That's only 15 quid a prescription. You could look at this as a bad thing, and say that it actually meant there were more things wrong with me than I thought, but that's just being negative. It was all fixable, and getting the value, let's face it, trumps anything else, including health concerns. Nothing can beat the buzz of a good deal. I felt transformed before I'd taken anything.

However, when I got home I found that the family had what I believe is known in medical terms as a paradoxical reaction to my four medications.

I would have said four prescriptions was proof that I was a very sick man indeed and that I needed to be on strict rest in front of the TV with cups of tea being brought, etc. Instead, they seemed to take the diagnosis as confirmation that I was fine now, and that the two weeks of moaning could end.

I'll tell you what. I won't be going to the doctor again in a hurry, prescriptions or not. Much better to mess about with the antihistamines and nasal washes for a week and get the sympathy.

I headed dejectedly up to bed to dream about my retirement to a remote village in the sun, somewhere with three chemist shops.

Sunday Independent

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