I don’t know about you, but for some time now, my mail inbox has been inundated with all manner of freebie messages. Notoriously regular among them are offers of ‘full body medical check-up at unbelievable prices.’ There are others such as servicing of my car (including free washing and special chemical cleaning), free inspection of my apartment for delousing and routine electrical line checks, and not to forget, combo cleaning offer of all our carpets and curtains by specially imported machines, all done in situ. However, it is the medical check-up wallahs, pounding my inbox daily like there’s no tomorrow, who hold my particular attention. A word of caution. Do not get taken in by the seductive ‘free.’ There is nothing free in any of this. What they mean, in their own elliptical way, is that they will not charge you for coming over and taking a close look at your carpets. Once they unleash their sales spiel, they have you by the short and curly. When they start the actual work, the meter starts ticking. Caveat emptor applies. Get a close look at the estimate first, sign on the dotted line and the devil take the hindmost.
That said, let me get back to the subject that interests me most. Every day, without fail, I will receive a mail from some pseudo-medico organization (their provenance a big question mark) stating dramatically that ‘YOUR APPOINTMENT FOR A FREE MEDICAL CHECK-UP IS CONFIRMED FOR 11AM ON SEPTEMBER 1.’ When I first came across a message of this nature, I naturally thought I had fixed an appointment and that it had slipped my mind. I had no idea all this was being offered gratis. Perhaps I should check out one of those ayurvedic concoctions to aid memory power. Closer inspection revealed the truth, that this was just a crude, sales hoax. One has to read the small print carefully with a magnifying glass to figure out there’s nothing free here. The following day I would receive an almost identical message from some other lab testing company. It did not take me long to realise that these messages should be ignored and deleted straight away. I even tried to block these evangelical messengers so concerned about my health. No way, they just kept coming back like a reverberating echo. Skins as thick as buffalo hides.
Gone are the days when you just trotted round the corner to a pharmacy, behind which in a small, dank room sat a sad-looking general practitioner reading the daily newspaper. When you told him you had a slight tummy upset or thought you were running a temperature (actually it did not matter what you were ailing from), his course of action was unfailingly the same. ‘Stick your tongue out, say aaahh,’ then out comes the stethoscope which will be pressed at different points on your chest and back during which you had to essay a cough or two, just to ensure your lungs are clear. When all that was done, he will write out a prescription for some awful-tasting patent mixture to be taken for three days. The ‘compounder’ at the pharmacy actually mixed the liquid concoction. No second visit to the doctor was required. Life was simple.
Truth to tell, I was a bit of a sickly child. Every couple of months or so, I would invariably come down with some form of streptococcal infection (sore throat), graduating to high fever and if the mood took me, my stomach would start playing up and all in all, I was a miserable wreck for about a week to ten days. I was once told I had para typhoid, which sounded very impressive to relate to your friends who hadn’t had it, like some dubious badge of honour! At heart, we are all hypochondriacs. The funny thing though, not that anyone was laughing, was that I do not recall blood being drawn and ten pages of platelet count, red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin, clotting factor and all manner of other nauseating details of my A+ blood group being revealed. Maybe I was too down in the dumps to have noticed all these sly tests taking place behind my back. I think the general theory those days was that you just lay around feeling like death warmed up, drank plenty of fluids (provided you didn’t bring it up) and your natural immunity system would kick in and fight off those awful germs attacking your frail body. However, if the doctor came round to administer an injection, you feared the worst, the jab being worse than the disease.
Let me stress that such treatment as one received in the days gone by happened only when you actually fell ill. Things are different today. You could be in perfectly robust health, but you are encouraged to take an annual medical check-up. Just in case. Any number of hospitals and private clinics offer this service, and it is an excellent revenue stream for these institutions. Now, I do not wish to sound too cynical about all this, but the fact is most of us have fallen prey to these medical blandishments, and we dive headlong into the waiting arms of their seductive offers. Next thing you know, after another ten months or so, you get a call saying your next check-up is due in a fortnight’s time and can we confirm your appointment. Rather like the reminders you receive nowadays from your car service company.
It helps that if you are over the age of 60, you are entitled to special discounts on the tests. Medical insurance does not provide coverage for diagnostic tests, but you had better take one out on the off-chance that you might get knocked over by a bus and be wheeled in for emergency surgery. Or worse. It is a carefully calibrated world, this whole medical check-up lark, but you have been sucked into it, so you had better lie back and enjoy it. A brief word on medical insurance. When you actually need it, you have to work doubly hard to get the compensation you deserve and have paid for, year on year. Extracting blood out of a lump of rock could be easier, such is the runaround you are given by the companies. That said, I must confess that if you have the ability and the patience to fill up hundreds of forms and answer all their questions to their satisfaction, they usually cough up. My own advice is to take out a policy by all means, but try not get into a situation where you must make a claim. Better you take advantage of the ‘no claim bonus.’
I come back to these regular advertising mails one receives on one’s mobile phones luring me to come and take a medical check-up on the never-never, because they have apparently actually ‘fixed an appointment’ for me. Do not touch these invitations with the proverbial bargepole. If, out of curiosity, you respond in any shape or form, you are done for, my friend. You will get calls, day and night, at the end of which you may need to actually go and get yourself tested for high blood pressure. Leave well enough alone, is my sage counsel. Stay with your trusted family doctor, if such a tribe still exists, or visit a reputed hospital and consult the same doctor every time, as he or she will get to know you, your family history and will ensure that you do not need to go haring off to get tested for all manner of ailments, real or imagined. I do realise that I reckon without those who simply love visiting doctors, and spend a pleasant morning or evening chatting about their innards and perhaps politics and the cricket scores. To them I say, you are beyond hope and you may as well have the time of your lives discussing your gout, lumbago or sciatica in excruciating detail with your doctor. If that is what gives you your jollies. Speaking for myself, if I do not have to visit a doctor or wait to take a blood test for the next five years, it will be too soon.