Thursday, September 22, 2011

Crystalassis perfectamiossis

My fitness regime commenced again in ernest after the whirlwind of moving house had subsided. Living on the beach presents me with a perfect, scenic daily run. It is too good for words.

Next on the running agenda is the Loch Ness Marathon. Don't be stupid, I'm not doing the marathon! I'm doing the 5k. I was on track to do the 10k before what little of summer we had distracted me. There was a lot that stopped me running for a couple of months but now, damnit, I'm back on track.

Well, I was back on track before an acute case of Crystalassis perfectamiossis struck. Crystalassis perfectamiossis? I hear you ask. Well, I could tell you that I had a recurrent bout of gout. See what I did there? No? Well, I was shocked to discover that I have been ashamed to tell people of my gout. why should I be ashamed? It is historically the affliction of the well-to-do. Kings get gout. The landed gentry get gout. Damn it, I get gout! But there is something about it that makes it difficult to confess. It sounds so . . . so . . . shameful.

Let me give you brief description of the condition. Foods high in purine (good stuff, like salmon, anchovies, red meat, mushrooms, spinach) causes an increase of uric acid in the bloodstream that crystalizes in the joints. Long story short, this feels like somebody has crushed glass in your toe. Right in there in the joint. It is incredibly painful (at worst - the first time I had it), and very uncomfortable (at best - this second time).

But the name sucks. It is so blah. It is not at all descriptive of the condition (in fact, gout in the big toe - like mine - is called Podagra, WTF?). So I've invented my own name for it. Crystalassis perfectamiossis.

What's in a name?

So, despite the fact (has anyone counted how many times I say that?) that the condition has interrupted my training, I've been in a fair bit of discomfort this week. Not helped by the NHS. I didn't have to go to the GP in order to obtain a prescription for pain relief. I phoned the practise, played a bit of phone chasey, and ended up having a telephone consultation. That bit was fine. In fact, it was great. I knew it was Crystalassis perfectamiossis and already know the symptoms and treatment. So it would have been a waste, not only of my time, but of the precious resources of the NHS if I had have been required to attend the surgery.

Brilliant! Well, not exactly. Hang on . . . I know I promised a good news story and here I am lapsing into a defacto rant. Well, I guess over here even the good things don't come without a cost. But bear with me. Where was I? Oh yeah . . . things were going brilliantly. The GP promised to fax my prescription to my local pharmacy by the next day (Saturday). So come Saturday (and at the point of my affliction when I was suffering the most pain) I had to hobble down the street (funny, someone else didn't offer to go for me) to the chemist to get some relief. But the pharmacist had not received any faxed prescription. We discussed my options at length, which included attending a hospital emergency department; an option I was unwilling to consider, even with the pain I was enduring. I decided I would just return home and phone the medical practise and have them re-fax the prescription through.

'Oh, you won't be able to do that,' says the pharmacist.

'And why not?' I reply.

It seems that medical centres are not open AT ALL on the weekends over here. What? Are you joking? No? If you want any sort of medical attention over the weekend you have to go to an emergency ward. I'm not making this stuff up. No wonder the system is barely coping. No wonder it costs so much to run.

So I limp home and suffer in (relative) silence through the pain for the remainder of the weekend.

I call the medical practise on Monday and they (re?)fax the prescription through. So I limp down the road again (only the symptoms are much less severe by now) and collect the drugs I have been prescribed. I pull out my wallet and get out my debit card and try to hand it to the pharmacist who looks at me incredulously.

'Oh, you don't need to do that,' says the pharmacist.

'And why not?' I reply.

It seems that nobody has to pay for their prescriptions here. Not anybody. Not ever. What? Are you joking? No? I'm not making this stuff up. No wonder the system is barely coping. No wonder it costs so much to run.

So anyway . . . it might not have seem like a story of big ups, but there it is. FREE MEDICINES! I seriously cannot believe it. But I guess it's something that's worth celebrating!

Meanwhile I recommence training by the sea tomorrow, barely in time to get enough miles in the legs to make it to 5kms next weekend. Oh, don't worry. I will be sure to let you all know how that goes*.

x.



* A good time for me for 5kms is 26mins. At this stage a really good time for me will be 27:30. Realistically, I'll be moderately pleased to do it in under 30 mins. Ah, who am I kidding? If I manage to finish at all without the intervention of the paramedics I can consider myself to have succeeded.