Medical mystery

Medical mystery

“Do you sometimes hear a strange ringing sound?” asked the opening lines of the feature story in the periodical that I was reading. I paused to listen. It was all quiet on the disturbance front with the neighbourhood noisemakers having taken the morning off for a change. The birds that gather outside my living room window to engage in debate with a passion that rivals verbal jousts on talk shows seemed to have developed laryngitis. The tomcat who chooses this hour to serenade the local cats near the trash can, at the street corner, appeared to have retired to a side lane to pursue a more gastronomically appealing interest.

I strained my ears to listen. Not a sound could be heard — save for the ringing of a bell. I swallowed nervously. The ringing grew louder and louder! I returned my gaze to the title of the piece — The Sounds of Silence. Swallowing nervously, I scanned the text. Pausing briefly to elaborate on the tympanic membrane, the story progressed, over increasing decibel levels, from imperceptible changes in hearing to the numbing realisation of the threshold of pain, rounding off by summarising the signs of impending deafness. It was exactly as I had feared. I suffered from every one of the symptoms detailed in the story.
Like J in Jerome K Jerome’s classic, Three Men in a Boat, no sooner am I acquainted with the symptoms of a particular disorder than I realise, with a sinking feeling, that I have them all. The website on eye diseases leaves me speculating whether glaucoma or trachoma has drawn my vision. I settle for an unsightly mix of the two. A chance perusal of a reader’s comment on diabetic retinopathy persuades a rethink — until the long-winded nature of the complaint compels me to opt for an easier-on-the-tongue disorder.

I get severe backaches poring over memos on spinal abnormalities, the pain ebbing only after I move focus to A Guide to Dental Hygiene,when I get the inevitable toothache. I have fallen victim to cirrhosis of the liver despite imbibing nothing stronger than a stirring account of the possible ailments that may afflict the organ. A graphic account of dermatitis, interspersed with illustrative sketches, breaks me out in a rash while a blog post on bronchitis leaves me choking. Had I not read the Wikipedia entry on amblyopia, I would have spent hours agonising over falling victim to myopia.

I put down the magazine and sighed. It was pointless dashing to the phone to set up an emergency appointment with my ENT consultant. Recollections of a previous encounter with a physician persuaded me to reconsider this step. An afternoon session with Six Health Symptoms You Just Cannot Ignore had led me to settle on being afflicted by diabetes with a side helping of bacterial endocarditis. Such a condition, I had concluded, needed the deft touch of an internist, one preferably capable of thinking outside the Resident’s Case Log.

The doctor heard me out as I outlined my debit sheet of ailments, including the aforementioned tongue twister. A few off-the-cuff questions and an all-too-brief examination later, he returned with the verdict. The diagnosis — an inflammation of the imagination. The prescription — strict abstinence from health guides of any sort. Realising that seeking medical help was inconceivable, I shifted my gaze to the newspaper. A title caught my eye — “Are you a medical mystery?” My head bobbed up and down in agreement.

Grabbing hold of the daily, I scanned the opening paragraph. As my tongue ran over what had become suddenly dry lips, beads of sweat formed on my forehead and then raced one another to be the first to reach my chin. A hunted look came to my eyes. My heart, never one to back off from a community appeal, thumped madly. I lowered my gaze. And began to read.

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