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Saturday, 9 December 2017

That One Thing I Take For Granted...

A patient walks into a doctor's surgery:-
Patient: Doctor, I have a pain around my stomach area.
Doctor: Oh for heaven's sake, it's just a bout of indigestion. Go home, man up, and stop wasting my time!

The patient goes home and carries on his business. After such a shocking reply, he decides to "man up" and tells no one else for weeks to come, not even his family members. And as the pain gradually intensifies, he carries on in keeping a stiff upper lip like any good Englishman. That is, until the intensity of the pain spreading towards his tummy and also towards his back compels him to visit his nearest Accident and Emergency department of a local hospital. 

After some time resting fetus-like on the bed with both arms clenched, another doctor, after carrying out some tests as well as observing a level of weight loss, suggests that it's pancreatic cancer. At least this doctor, no doubt an immigrant, since his English, although good, was still somewhat broken as he spoke. He was far more compassionate in his attitude than his local GP he had earlier consulted, who was a British veteran who also served in the military Red Cross. By contrast, this medic working at Accident and Emergency, turned out to be correct in his diagnosis, and the patient was then admitted into the main hospital for further tests and observations so the correct course of treatment may get underway.  

Of course, these days no doctor of any nationality would display such a dismissive attitude to a patient, but being old enough to see such past attitudes in real life has made me rather obstinate, at least according to my wife's opinion, against visiting our local GP whenever I need to. This sense of stubbornness most likely harks back to one morning many years earlier when I attended a primary school. Back then I recall one boy bullying another, and the victim went to a middle-aged male teacher whom he had asked to intercede. Instead, this teacher brushed the youngster off with the rebuke, Don't tell tales! The victim was left to his own devices to deal with the bully. Or later in the 1990's, during my peak of world travel, and what I have read in a hosteling magazine more than twenty years ago. It was an article referring to the original purpose of youth hosteling. This was when such hostels catered for city children to have a taste of country life, long before they were taken over by backpackers. In those days when the compulsory morning duty was carried out by every member, meals were served by the catering staff, and lights out at 10.30 PM.

On one occasion, when a father and his son was staying one night at such a youth hostel, the warden's wife instructed both to "finish their vegetables" before they can leave the table! This is a true story if you find it hard to believe. But this goes back to the late 1950's when every boy was expected to be conscripted for National Service, and the warden and his wife saw this as the reason for such strict, public school discipline within the hostel premises. This was about the same time as the above primary school bullying incident, when just about all adult men had a stint in the military, with many enduring combat, and therefore expected the boys to toughen up and follow suit. However, the father, after such an insulting humiliation as a fully grown adult and parent, had never set foot in a hostel ever again, while the son waited up to nearly forty years before he found the courage to hesitatingly step through the door of a hostel once more. I'm happy to say that with the vast modernisation and improvements, together with sharing the dormitory with adult backpackers instead of children, he was converted to become a devout fan of hosteling.

And there is a well documented case concerning Eton, one of Britain's most famous Public Schools, located across the River Thames from Windsor. Reverend Dr. John Keate took over Eton as headmaster in 1809. Each day, from Monday even to Saturday (but not on Sundays) he would cane up to ten boys. On 30 June 1832, he thrashed over eighty of his pupils with his cane. But instead of showing negative emotions in direct relation to the pain felt, each boy cheerfully thanked him for the punishment.*

It was this what their parents paid for. For their son's level of stoicism to reach such heights so that he can be classified with the privilege of being one of the Breed - the ideal Englishman whose emotions are so controlled that he can suffer pain without even a wince, but instead it's met with a smile. The perfect gentleman who is not only a magnificent boxer, but would also bow in reverence to the Monarch, yet at the same time have a disdain for all foreigners, with a God-given sense of biological, ethical and national superiority to invade other lands and rule over the indigenous as one of the Master Race. Such would make an ideal military officer over a regiment deployed to maintain the Empire. And so such attitude carries over from one generation to the next, with fathers and school teachers whacking the backsides of their offspring until such beatings eventually becomes a sexual stimulant as these boys grow up into adulthood.

And so by the 1960's and the 70's, it was not uncommon for a suited City businessman, complete with bowler hat, to make a beeline to a prostitute's bedroom after a day's work, and pay her to have his buttocks whacked with a leather strap prior to sexual intercourse. This, off course, with an excuse for his wife that "he must work late at his office" as part of his employment. My point is, had all this discipline and punishment, based on national, ethical and racial superiority, really produced a godly, moral character?

City gent - model of Christian virtue?

Having been born towards the tail end of such a culture, I believe to be one of many Baby-boomers who believe that visiting a GP, unless literally gasping at my last breath, is wasting his time when he could be dealing with a patient carrying a more serious illness. It is a subconscious feeling, often disguised as an excuse for delay or pretended forgetfulness, or even with an explanation that I'm on the recovery, even if not actually true, thus expressing my unwillingness to visit the doctor, in case he tells me to man up and not waste his time. Yet my wife Alex insists that I should go. And she has even arranged an appointment for me.

This is a result of an injury inflicted at the gym, as already expressed in my recent blogs. As the pain refuses to go, leaving me hobbling along instead of walking, Alex bought a pair of crutches online, and I now can move more efficiently by leaning on one of the crutches. But this can be rather humiliating, especially at a superstore, when I watch an elderly female, old enough to be my mother, walking stealthily along like a twenty-year-old athlete whilst I lean heavily on that aluminium tube my wife had bought for me. It is by this experience that I come to realise how much I have taken for granted my health and mobility, probably the most important commodity in any man's life.

At last, late one evening I visit the doctor, a middle-aged female immigrant who is apparently married to a Brit, because she bears an English surname. Far from telling me not to waste her time, she was practically all over me, referring me as "my darling" as she examined my condition. When I told her that I had injured myself at the gym, she explained about the ailment Plantar Fasciitis, but with the pain prolonged to over three weeks and showing no sign of abating, she has suggested that I might have a torn ligament, and then asked me whether I would submit to both an X-Ray and a scan, to verify her suspicion and if proven true, to turn up at Accident and Emergency. Therefore I was not too surprised to be confronted by Alex's annoyance when I mentioned about a potential visit to Accident and Emergency. She knew that I needed attention, and therefore she had a go at me for my stubbornness in not visiting the doctor earlier on.

In reference to Reverend Dr. John Keate, it is his double title which as intrigued me. He was an academic and a church leader, as well as a leader of Eton. Yet as I try to perceive the Church of England through the eyes of a recently-whacked pupil, I wonder how those students perceived God himself. Certainly not as a God of healing, as so many sore buttocks can testify. There seems to be a massive contrast between the likes of Dr. John Keate and that of Jesus himself, who exhorted his followers to "...heal the sick..." - not whack them.

Eton College Public School

But when Jesus healed the sick, there was always one main reason for doing so, and that was for the glory of God. That is, Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, fed the poor, and ministered to the oppressed - so that people will recognise him as their Messiah, and by believing on his name, they may have eternal life through him (John 20:31). Jesus himself said,
I told you that you will die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am, you will indeed die in your sins - John 8:24.

To believe that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well (1 John 5:1). That was the whole object of Christ's ministry in healing the sick: To bring people to God through faith in Jesus Christ. It does look like that God holds great value to health. It was how God originally created us. And Psalm 139 contains one of the best testimonies on how God has "knitted us together whilst still in the womb." - (Verses 14-16).

God is our Father, especially to the believer, the one who has faith in Jesus. And what I have learnt from not only of my experience, but what my wife is going through as well, is that being healthy is a precious gift from God. The trouble is, I tend to forget this, especially if I'm on a pursuit to attain a goal, whether it's in business or for pleasure, and I merely take my health for granted. By suddenly having to hobble along in pain rather than walk or run can indeed cause me to focus on how precious my health really is, and there is nothing shameful, or embarrassing about paying a visit to a General Practitioner and accepting his course of treatment. Because he will not tell me to man up and to bear my pain with "macho" stoicism. Neither would he tell me off, nor wield a cane for wasting his time, nor would he say that my malady is too minor for his attention. Rather, he - or in my case, she - would give the right advice and set me on the proper course of treatment.

And I think that in itself is a demonstration of God's fatherly love.

*Jeremy Paxman, The English - A Portrait of a People, page 179, Michael Joseph Publishers.


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