Final reckoning

Tuesday As the tax year draws to a close, so too does the medical year (for convenience and easy accounting, I have linked the two). Examining my records, I note 37 visits to the Grove Clinic (29 to my regular physician Dr Sarah Jarvis, the rest spread between Drs Neil Fraser, Beverly MacDonald and Yvette Smith; plus one visit to the osteopath, Melanie Coutinho, regarding interlocking vertebrae).

This figure - a net increase of 11.9 per cent on the 12 months to April 5 1998 - includes six bouts of flu, nine nameless viruses and two infections (otitis externa, and streptococci in the throat) requiring antibiotics. There have been suspected cancers of the bladder, brain, lymphatic system, bowel (twice), neck, skin and testes, while four consultations concerned the livid spot on the end of my nose, which is due to be removed with liquid nitrogen.

Wednesday I awake with a tight, painful and and wheezy chest. 'It's definitely bronchitis,' I tell Rebecca over my breakfast prunes (according to a new report, prunes have remarkable anti-cancer properties). 'What makes you say that?' she asks, speaking over a prolonged coughing fit. 'Oh I don't know,' I reply when it subsides, 'probably the fact that the Nikkei index is recovering sharply after falls in early trading.' Two wine glasses descend from the table. I spit out the last prune stone, and head morosely for the glassware department of Peter Jones.

Thursday My entire immune system is now in a state of collapse. The bronchitis has worsened dramatically overnight, while the nose spot has returned to an electric shade of scarlet, so that I once again look like an extra in Star Trek. Despite finding the prospect unnerving, I must go to Dr MacDonald's cryosurgery clinic to have it frozen off as soon as possible.

Friday I awake wheezing and coughing having passed a troubled night. In the dream, Dr Jarvis stands over me. From the ridges on her forehead, she appears to be a Klingon. 'Welcome to stardate 2671,' she says. 'You and your nose spot were frozen in a freak cryogenic accident in the year 1999, and sent into space. We found you floating in a tin can, and have just brought you out of stasis.'

The doors swoosh open. 'Ah, captain,' says Dr Jarvis, as my wife joins us, 'they're awake.' Rebecca stares at us imperiously. 'We only have room to keep one of them,' says Rebecca. 'Advise me, doctor.' 'I think we should keep the spot, captain. He's a very average humanoid specimen, captain,' ('Tell me about it,' snorts Rebecca) 'but the spot is an intriguing new life form, and has a far more sophisticated immune system. I suggest.'

As the spot separates itself from my nose and is beamed to the bridge, where it is to take charge of all weapons systems, I awake.

Saturday Existing symptoms are joined by fever, stomach cramps and diarrhoea. So ill do I feel and such is the variety of problems, I now suspect one of those mutating bacterial infections that are resistant to all known antiobiotics. Since pills are useless against such strains, I have decided not to waste Dr Jarvis's time, but to let nature take its course.

Sunday Rebecca calls Dr Jarvis, who will see me tomorrow in the usual 6.20pm slot.

Monday In room 19, I fill Dr Jarvis in on the facts. 'It's a complete breakdown in the immune system due to an antibiotic-resistant bug.' Smiling grimly, she listens to my chest and confirms my diagnosis of bronchitis. After warning me on no account to smoke or go coatless into the cold night air, she prescribes a salbutamol inhaler and a course of amoxycillin.

'I'll take them, doctor, but they won't work. This is a mutant infection which attacks both chest and bowels. No antibiotic can touch it.' I then tell her about the stomach problem. 'This diarrhoea?' she says, 'Rebecca said you've started eating prunes.' 'Yes, but very few. Certainly not enough to have an effect.' 'Out of interest, how many?' 'Four dozen a day. Maybe five.' Without a word, Dr Jarvis stands and guides me to the door. Back at home, I make the final entry in the 1998-89 records, reflecting that I am due a large rebate in the next medical year. As to whether I will get one, I have the very gravest doubts.

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