Wellness woes

Wellness woes


The first counsel, I followed with due diligence. The second, I failed to comply with, no thanks to over-active microbes and an under-active immune system.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that persons heading from the hot and humid tropics, teeming as they are with all sorts of creepy crawlies, to the dry and disinfected West should never fall sick. Yet, I did. With monotonous regularity. Thus affording me an opportunity to sample the American medical care system from up close.

It began with an innocuous eye infection. I ignored it at first, dismissing it as an excitable overreaction to the profusion of fall colours in the Midwest. As days passed, the white of my eye remained stubbornly fixated on the red. So, I decided to seek the help of the university health centre.

The nurse on duty ignored my bloodshot eye and focused instead on my pulse. It was, but naturally, racing. Body temperature and blood pressure came next. The little formalities between us completed, she made way for the resident physician. 

He gave my eye the once-over, spoke chattily of allergies past and present and prescribed medication. No, he was no eye doctor, was his reply to my query. To manoeuvre into the specialist highway, I had to first negotiate my way through the bylanes of the primary health care provider.

A week passed. With my eye continuing to think pink, the GP gave his diagnosis. It was time for me to graduate to the care of an ophthalmologist. The waiting room at the eye clinic was crowded with patients, stacks of old magazines and a television set that insisted on sharing details about how Paul pacified his hyperactive bladder and how Pauline taught her immune system to take a joke. All this I saw with my good eye, its injured partner having shut shop for repairs and renovation.

The ophthalmologist came, examined and questioned. His queries covered the whole gamut from dietary habits to choice of medicines to an impolite inquiry as to whether there was a history of blindness in my family.

The eye recovered and winter set in. It was all quiet on the viral front as temperatures fell to sub-zero levels. Like well brought up germs, the pathogens went into hibernation.

Spring came and as the flowers bloomed, so did the viruses. My immune system, still weak after a particularly harsh winter, was no match for the onslaught. Dizzy spells, light-headedness and palpitations saw me rush to the emergency room. The world seemed to be positioned at a crazy angle. I tried to find my bearings only to hear an officious voice demand, “What insurance plan do you have?”

Tests identified the cause of my distress to be a hyperactive thyroid gland. I was referred to an endocrinologist who was nothing if not thorough. After a trip back in time to pore over every page in my health history, he fast-forwarded into the future to acquaint me with all possible complications of my condition. With the aid of pencil sketches and an illegible scrawl, he proceeded to keep me totally, and I mean totally, informed. I learnt about parts of my body I never knew existed and all that could go wrong with them. My heartbeat, already a robust 155, scaled new heights. My palms started sweating profusely.

There was a cold feeling in my stomach. Still, I had been fully informed.

No doubt, information is the buzzword de jure, but a little thriftiness on occasion never goes amiss. With the germs at bay, it was time for the medical bills to occupy centre stage. From ER charges to lab work to multiple scans, the wellness regime ensured that I did not miss the contribution of any foot soldier, however insignificant, in my battle against the bugs.

The bills continued to pour in months after my recovery. Despite the threat of impending insolvency, I was content. The pathogens troubled me no more, their puny little efforts no match for the superior stunning power of health care costs in the US.