As I sit here in my bed I am slowly dying of a disease that has for years baffled the medical profession…there are no vaccines, few if any effective treatments and has far more public health implications than Avian Influenza.
The condition is not something that can be easily explained if you haven’t suffered from it yourself. At approximately 1200hours this afternoon I was sitting in a warm classroom (too warm, if anything), when the drowsiness kicked in. Ordinarily I sleep through most learning related activities so this didn’t come as too much of a shock. But then I couldn’t breathe through my nose, and it’s at this point that the panic really begins to set in. Once the headache erupted like pus from a fourteen year old boy’s face my fate was sealed: Man flu- the single most deadly affliction to face men since Germaine Greer. I’m not entirely sure what I have done to deserve such a fate. I take the rubbish bins out, cuddle small kittens and help old ladies cross the road. My one vice is perhaps that I drink a little too much…and for this I am paying a hefty price. Since Friday I have been on the go non-stop; my gallivant to Exeter with all it’s drinking and falling over, a subsequent pustulent elbow, and spending 24 hours awake on Monday all seem to be contributory factors.
Luckily for me it’s something that doesn’t come around too often- but just enough to keep me on my metaphorical toes of doom. It does happen when I get run down, but normally I eat enough oranges and limes to keep germs away. Unfortunately, as I have said, there is very little any doctor or surgeon can do to heal me. I simply have to rely on bed rest, re-runs of Live at the Apollo on BBC iPlayer and imposing sufficient levels of guilt on my flatmates to make them run around after me and cook my meals…as you can see this disease seems to bring unprecedented optimism as well.
The problem with being a medical student (or one of them, at least) is that we suffer from a very real condition known as “medical student’s syndrome;” they don’t mess about with nonsense names in psychology do they? What this says is that students may suffer an irrational fear of contracting the disease that they are currently studying, with many believing that they are indeed suffering from the disease. Astonishingly, studies have shown that just under 80% of medics will go through this, and I can safely count myself amongst their number- however I seem to be considering every disease I have ever come across, and not just the ones I’m studying now. In the last three hours I have forced myself to exclude the differentials of a brain tumour, aspiration pneumonia (from falling asleep backwards in a chair 4am Tuesday morning), sub-dural haemorrhage, meningitis and septicaemia from that cut to my forearm* as well as a whole host of other disease that present with general malaise. You’ll no doubt be glad to hear that at the moment it looks like I will pull through…just.
The post I owe you all about my adventures in Exeter will be up in the next few days, depending on my prognosis. I assure you it will be worth the wait.
The more cynical of you will argue that this illness is strangely close to Valentine’s day. All I can say to that is if this were a ploy to get out of buying present/spending the day (read: my hard earned cash) with my beloved girlfriend, then it is doomed to failure. For, I fear, my head would have to be hanging on its last thread and even then I’d still be made to pander to her romance based whims. Some diseases, it seems, will never have a cure**.
*All joking aside, meningitis is a very real problem amongst the student community as it can strike very rapidly and its symptoms can be confused with a cold/flu or a hangover. Get vaccinated against Meningitis C, and keep an eye out for your mates- visit http://www.meningitis-trust.org/ for more information.
**In case you read this, my love, and you probably will- I didn’t mean any of the pandering stuff. Please don’t kill me