My wife has just had a knee operation, which means she’s on crutches for the next fortnight. Having been out of hospital a full two days, we have been bombarded with visitors who all seem to know everything there is to know about knee operations and how best to recover from them. Which is good, because the next person who offers an unsolicited, unqualified opinion will need all their medical expertise to extract their own leg after I rip it off and shove it up their ass.
Now, I don’t profess to being medically trained. True, I spent six months working in an old people’s home as a medication technician, six months as a student nurse, six months as a medical secretary and a year as a doctor’s receptionist, and am the son of a pharmacy technician who spent every mealtime of my childhood talking about pharmaceuticals, but still, I don’t consider myself an expert because I’m not. I do, however, consider myself sensible in matters of healthcare – enough at least to be able to sift the nuggets from the bullshit, and where I am ignorant, trust the advice of those better qualified than me. I just wish others had a similar awareness of their own limitations.
‘How long did the operation take?’
‘Oh, no, it wouldn’t have taken that long.’
‘It took two hours.’
‘No, it would’ve been an hour tops.’
‘Well, the surgeon told her afterwards that it took two hours.’
‘No, it would’ve taken an hour.’
‘Well, you know what? I’m going to trust the surgeon because I’m pretty sure he’s the one to know.’
Same with the stitches. ‘How many did she have?’
‘Two? It must have been more than two.’
‘No, it was keyhole surgery. Two stitches, that’s all.’
‘No, she definitely had more than two.’
‘Would you like me to get the discharge summary and we can see who’s right?’
Then there’s the recovery period. She’s been told she won’t be able to drive for two weeks.
‘Oh, it’ll be much longer than two weeks.’
‘Or we could trust the experts and see how it goes, yeah?’
‘It’ll be longer than two weeks, you’ll see.’
They’re also experts at how to navigate with a reconstructed knee.
‘When you go upstairs, you should do it backwards by sitting down and using your good leg to propel you up one step at a time.’
‘That’s not how the physiotherapist showed her how to do it.’
‘Well that’s how I’d do it. That’s what she should do.’
I’ll admit, I lost it a bit. ‘Or, how about this for a novel idea – why doesn’t she do it the way the medical professionals told her to do it? You know, the ones trained in anatomy and physiology who are experts in post-operative recovery.’
‘Alright, alright, I was only making a suggestion.’
‘A suggestion that would involve her dragging her bad leg up the stairs? Why don’t we just stick to the things we know about, yeah?’
I’m off that Christmas Card list!
Same with the meds – everyone and their grandmother thinks they’re a freaking expert.
‘What’s she taking for the pain?’
‘Paracetamol and Ibuprofen.’
‘Oh, there’s no point using Paracetamol, it’s not strong enough – I’ll get you some Nurofen.’
‘She’s already taking Ibuprofen.’
‘Well, she should try Nurofen.’
‘Nurofen IS Ibuprofen. They’re literally the same drug, only one’s four times the price.’
‘Well, Nurofen’s better than Paracetamol.’
‘You’re comparing apples and oranges. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen do different things in different ways – one’s a painkiller, one’s a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. Anyway, the hospital said to take both.’
‘Well, it’d be better if she was taking Nurofen. I’ll get you some.’
Good Lord, it’s like talking to a brick wall. There again, why would I expect anything more from a person who, whenever we have colds, gets cross with us for not following her advice to take 5000% of the daily recommended dose of Vitamin C?*
Frankly, I am amazed there are so many trained pharmacists, physicians, surgeons and physiotherapists hanging around in a little village in the New Forest working as farmers, cleaners, baristas and shopkeepers instead of, you know, pharmacists, physicians, surgeons and physiotherapists.
I’ll tell you one thing though – for people so concerned with health, they’re taking massive risks with it – every time they open their mouths near me!
*If you’re interested in why this is so ridicuhous, the human body can only absorb a finite amount of Vitamin C and it pisses out the rest, but exceeding the daily recommended dose by so much risks diarrhoea, nausea and in extreme cases of prolonged use, kidney stones or even renal failure. And that’s before we bring up the fact that there’s no evidence Vitamin C shortens colds. Admittedly, there is some evidence to suggest that it can make cold symptoms less severe, but only if you start taking it before you’re aware you have a cold. Drinking down five effervescent Vitamin C tablets every day because you have a sniffle isn’t going to improve your lot in life other than by the placebo effect. But hey, why would I bother saying all this to someone who thinks Nurofen is better than Ibuprofen because it’s in a flashier box with a higher price tag?