Some readers may have been wondering about the break in service here at GofaDM, most (I suspect) will have just been enjoying the peace and quiet. A few may have correctly guessed that my cold, once eliminated from my sinuses, did not do the decent thing and leave my body. No, instead it chose to begin a seven day residency in my chest and throat – which has meant me spending much of the last week coughing (both day and night). I have also had much reduced appetite – though in some ways, for a chap trying to base his diet on local fruit and veg, this is about the best possible time of year to eat rather less.
I am far from alone in suffering under a prolonged cough, based on my friends and family, I am thinking of naming 2015 the Year of the Cough (though I note that our Chinese friends went with the Goat). Indeed, I spent last week staying in an unseasonably warm Edinburgh with friends who were both similarly afflicted. Obviously, this rather limited my scope for sympathy – but the excellent Edinburgh Science Festival provided further restrictions on traditional responses to a nasty cold.
A common response is to seek an antibiotic prescription from your doctor – rarely useful as most colds are viral in nature and antibiotics can (at best) see off bacteria (and perhaps archaea? fungi?). Having been to a brilliant talk entitled Antibiotic Apocalypse! I was fully aware of the risks to both patient and society of unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics. I could have been suffering from “strep” throat, but since it seems to have largely cleared up with the benefit of time, some menthol sweets and a lot of hot drinks (many containing honey and lemon) that now seems unlikely.
It was also very hard to wallow in self-pity after going to a talk on Motor Neurone Disease (or ALS for any American readers). This would tend to put one’s minor ailments in their place at the best of times, but the fact that I spent a good hour sitting within a few feet (at times less than three) of a chap who really was dying (and fast) really did make it impossible. He – Gordon Aikman – is a one time national gymnast and is still barely thirty: which certainly reminds one of the capricious (and cruel) nature of Fate. The talk was fascinating and rather affecting: we know neither what causes MND nor can do anything to prevent its progress and Stephen Hawking is certainly not a typical sufferer – half of all patients die within 14 months of diagnosis and very few live for as long as five years. It is surprisingly common – with some 400 current sufferers in Scotland alone. Given our extensive ignorance and the swift, debilitating progress of the disease, efforts focus on improving the (all too short) lives of patients and basic research to try and understand why neurons in the motor cortex and spine start dying. Some of the former efforts can be quite simple: for example, arranging for patients to have a single appointment to cover everything rather than forcing them to waste their very limited remaining time visiting five different specialists. Others are more complex, including an attempt to use modern technology to allow sufferers to keep their own voices – rather than a standardised electronic voice – which improves quality of life for both them and their friends and family. It certainly made me think how important it is not to waste NHS money on things which benefit neither patients, medical staff nor tax-payers. It marks the current government’s awful, bodged attempts at soi-disant reforms (which seemed cunningly designed to help none of the traditional stakeholders even had they worked) as particularly wicked – they have probably set back real attempts to improve the financial management of the NHS by decades. It also threw into sharp focus the trivial nature of any of the election debates on the subject of the NHS.
Anyway, lacking a decent route to self-pity and unaided by antibiotics, my immune system has had to do some work and see off the invaders on its own. It does finally seem to be gaining the upper hand and (according to at least one test) I am now restored to 75% of normal function. As a result of my reduced depletion, blogging should be fully restored.
The illness was not a complete dead loss as it led me to discover Belvoir Fruit Farms’ Ginger Cordial – which I purchased for its medicinal properties (well, a chap can dream), but which turns out to be worryingly delicious (at least when taken hot, I have yet to try it cold).