Tag Archives: health

Size of relief

At the doctor's for a checkupA few weeks ago I took a long hard look at my rather portly stomach and decided enough is enough. As a young person I loved sport and participated in football, cricket, squash and even ran a marathon once. But as middle age took hold, the mind was more willing than the body and the calories were spinning round like a Catherine wheel. Result, to paraphrase Mr Micawber, was certainly not happiness – I couldn’t even find my duck in the bath.

Luckily, two nieces came to the rescue with a serious short-term fix which revolved round replacing all the nice things in life with the type of food fit for an anorexic sparrow. But you know what, three and a half weeks in, and after a table-creaking lunch of sardines and a tomato, I’m a different person. Yes, I do miss a prune danish, a bagel with 100 per cent full-fat cream chesse, a bag of crisps, the occasional pizza, pasta, cheese cake, sticky toffee pudding (I could go on). But at three kilos lighter and a more enlightened approach to food I do feel a weight is off my stomach and indeed mind.

Another, and perhaps more interesting outcome of this exercise, is noticing how many people out there are overweight, and how much junk is consumed. I’m certainly no advocate of so-called health foods, which through a cunning marketing ploy around the organic brand, has turned intelligent people into zombie-like creatures who have a penchant for giving enormous sums of money for no added value whatsoever. As the great American comedian Jackie Mason pointed out, people who buy from these types of shops look like they are on their last legs. But I do think that an ad hoc individual food audit could help many people as it has helped me. Of course I won’t spend the rest of my days without a nice baguette or pizza, but I will at least recognise that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

From the bottle to the grave

For Gary Reinbach the NHS was hardly a cradle to the grave concept. The 22-year-old from Essex had started drinking at 13; ten years later and with one of the worst cases of cirrhosis his doctors had dealt with, he was basically left to die in a hospital bed. Strict NHS guidelines determine that before a person is able to undergo a transplant he must stay sober for six months. Twenty two is an apt age in Gary’s case because he was literally in Catch 22. Too ill to leave the hospital to attempt rehabilitation he was unable to benefit from medical care inside it and died.

smP006397It may well be that there is a shortage of donors and that all forms of treatment are rationalised. And clearly Gary’s lifestyle, heavily dependant on drink, was the ultimate cause of his death. But when the NHS was set up the government asked us to buy into the concept of ‘we pay our taxes, you keep us well’. We were not asked to live a certain way, despite the millions of pounds of government money going into the coffers of trendy ad agencies advising us to do just that.

The NHS cannot have it all ways it chooses. If resources have to be rationed then we the public can make a judgement on whether we wish to minimise the risks inherent in unhealthy lifestyles. But it’s the start of a slippery slope that matches the Winter Olympics bobsleigh course when the government, through one of its most iconic departments, puts the proverbial black cap on because a patient does not match one part of the NHS’s strict criteria for receiving medical care.

There is of course a precedent for this kind of rationing of health care. For Gary Reinbach in England 2009 read adults with a learning or physical disability in Germany circa 1938.

Matters of life and death

It’s the little things which put the bigger things into perspective. Last week two minor events in my life brought home how precious and precarious life can be; and how luck and fate plays a part. First to a hospital in north London to visit a friend from the chess team I play for who was admitted the previous weekend with a serious complaint and who was, and is, very poorly. Seeing a guy who two weeks before was playing alongside me in the National Chess League now barely able to walk to the lavatory was a real shock. The daily grind of work, making ends meet and hoping there is enough left at the end of the month for the odd visit to a restaurant suddenly becomes meaningless when you see a person you know well suffering like this.

Inner city tower blockThen the next evening to interview a potential model for Care images (actually her mother) as the model is a five-year-old disabled girl. They live in a council tower block on one of the higher floors and as I waited for the lift to come down I thought to myself; ‘what would happen in the event of a fire?’ The answer, chillingly, stared at me from the TV screens on Friday as news of the tower-block tragedy in Camberwell came through.

We are caught up in the minutiae of our lives, especially the economic climate. As long as everything is OK for me, then why should I worry about anyone else? This is a philosophy which brought great success to one Margaret Thatcher and is one that has permeated all aspects of our society. Maybe we need to take a step back, draw breath and take stock of what kind of country we have become. One minute, two happy families were busy with the minutiae of their lives in a tower block, two hours later they were trapped, unable to escape the flames. I may well be all right Jack, but what about those people who are not?