It occurred to me today while I was watching a TV programme about doctors, where a GP was drawing a rough diagram for a patient to explain the function of his gallbladder. The human body really is a fabulous piece of kit. Most of us don’t really have any clue how it all works.
If we buy a car, most of us just want to get in, put the key in (or press a button) and want it work and do what we want, i.e., drive us from A to B. We don’t really want to have to think about *how* it does it. It should just work. I think most of us are like that about our bodies. Most people don’t think about how everything is put together or what makes it all work – it just does.
Many moons ago, I knew the basics of maintaining my car: I could change the oil (even if I preferred to get someone else to do it), I knew how to change a tyre, fill the wash bottle, check the oil, tyre pressures, etc., and if it was beyond my basic skills, I’d take it to the garage – one that I trusted not to take one look at the fact that I have breasts and use that as an excuse to take the piss. And then I’d expect them to diagnose and fix it.
If my mechanic talks to me about filters, exhausts, spark plugs and brakes, I know what he’s on about. My mechanic knows I’m not stupid and talks to me as an equal (even if I’m not from a knowledge point of view). I treat him with respect because I know he won’t fleece me or carry out unnecessary procedures just to make a buck. I wish I could say the same for my GP. I’ve always been interested in health, I’ve read and observed a lot and picked up a fair amount of knowledge along the way. I’m not an idiot. I’m now starting to realise the importance of nutrition, exercise and looking after this body. Unlike a car, if a bit drops off, it’s not so easy to have it replaced. Well, not yet anyway. Like a lot of people, I’ve spent years abusing my body and generally not taking very good care but I’m now very much self-aware. I know when something’s not right: I may not always know what is wrong, but I’ll usually have a fairly good idea and if I don’t, I read and research. So how come if I take this knowledge to my GP, I’m treated like some simpleton who hasn’t got a clue what she’s talking about? How come there’s absolutely no discussion or debate? Do I just have a crappy GP? No, I don’t think I do. I’ve heard more than enough tales of woe regarding doctor (and specialist) visits to realise that it’s not just me. And as for the specialists. Phhh! I realise these people have spent years in training for their jobs and I am respectful of that. But just because I haven’t spent a similar number of years in the same line of education doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of finding information for myself and learning.
I do realise that medicine is an ever-changing landscape: things are constantly evolving but you have to move with the times. Can you imagine taking your new car into the garage only to be told that they don’t deal with cars that have on-board computers? If mechanics didn’t move with the times they’d be out of business. Some may say that doctors move with the times, in that they keep up with the latest drugs and treatments and they’re involved in continuing education but whatever happened to doing basic checks? With the health problems that I’ve had lately, not once has my doctor taken my temperature, looked into my eyes, ears or throat, taken my pulse, checked reflexes or anything else vaguely pertinent. He’s surrendered to the altar of blood test results which are enshrined in numbers. If the numbers are OK, there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s all in your head. Off you go – next please. I don’t want to pop pills to mask my symptoms. I want someone to investigate what’s wrong, get the root cause and help me to fix it.
I myself spent the majority of my younger years not really worrying about my body as long as it did what I wanted. Any little problems along the way were just taken in my stride and I’ve been very lucky in that up until my 30s, I’ve avoided any major problems or hospital stays. I’ve tried to amass the basics about self care so that I’m not troubling the NHS with trivialities. I don’t go in to see the doctor when I’ve got a cold or a sore digit. I’ve even managed to get myself off the long term medication for IBS and my supposed hyperacidity problem. Not because of any help from the doctor. Oh no. By reading and researching, then checking and testing theories.
Over the years I foolishly thought I was taking moderate care of it all but in recent years, I’ve started to realise that I’ve been a very bad caretaker and that a lot of my problems stem from not taking any notice of the little warnings my body was giving me over the years. I’ve now realised how much starts to fail as you get older and – oh my goodness – I’m actually not immortal! There’s a shocker. Fortunately I am able to do something about a lot of it but I’m having to do it on my own and I’m really cross at how much time I’ve wasted because I placed my trust in the so-called professionals. I almost feel like I’ve been asleep for the last 50 years and, like a bear who’s woken up after a very long winter, I’m seriously pissed off.