Thursday, 23 August 2007

The doctor and his patient

And the scene opens:

The scene is an ordinary doctor’s office. Rather drab, with old yellowing posters.

The doctor is listening to his own heartbeat with his stethoscope while absentmindedly depressing his tongue with a tongue depressor. There is a knock on the door.

Doctor (surprised): Come in, come in.

A middle-aged man with a paunch and a very bad comb-over enters. There is a sickly pallor to his skin and his clothes have seen better days.

Doctor: Ah, Mr Essiah? Mr Malachi Essiah? Here for the test results, eh?

Malachi (coughs): Good morning, doctor. Yes I am, and please call me Mal.

Doctor: Yes, yes, jolly good, jolly good. Please sit down, Mal.

The Doctor shuffles some papers looking for Mal’s test reports. Eventually, he finds them.

Doctor: Righto, here we are.

Let’s see, let’s see. (He reads the report.) Hmmmmmm.

Malachi: Is something the matter, Doctor? Am I all right?

Doctor: Hmmmmm.

Time passes.

Malachi: Doctor, you are worrying me.

Doctor: Huh? What? Oh sorry, I was trying to decipher what’s written here. Bloody doctors can’t write.

Malachi: But you are a doctor.

Doctor: I am? Oh yes, I am. Of course, of course. Yes, I am. Well, Mal, it doesn’t look good, I must say. You’re 49 years old and ?

Malachi: 50 next week.

Doctor: Really? Well, then, an early “Happy birthday to you!”

As I was saying, you are going on 50 and you’ve made a right royal mess of things, haven’t you?

It says here that everything is out of whack. I take it you are a man of means.

Malachi (proudly): Oh yes. I have made much money in my time. My business has been growing and growing.

Doctor: So has your waistline, from the looks of things. And your cholesterol level. And your blood pressure.

Seems you’ve been putting money before everything else, eh? The only thing that hasn’t grown is your hair.

Mal glares at him.

Doctor: Sorry, it’s a little joke.

Mal keeps on glaring.

Doctor: Yes, well. Errr ... moving along. You have gout. That is a rich man’s disease, you know. Too much red meat. And your arteries are pretty clogged up. Also, it would appear ? hmmmm ... tell me, do you have trouble pooping?

Malachi: Pooping?

Doctor: Yes, you know, pooping. To poop. To pass poop.

Malachi: Oh. Yes, now that you mention it ... it can be a bit of a ... a bit of a ?

Doctor: Strain?

Malachi: Yes, yes ... strain.

Doctor: Not surprising, Mal, since you are all blocked up: constipated, as they say in medical journals.

You have crap in you that must date back years. You can’t go around carrying that kind of baggage with you, Mal.

You must let go. Wash it out. I hear a coffee enema might do the trick.

Malachi: A what?

Doctor: A coffee enema, you shove a tube up your whatsit, pump in the coffee and it all flows out.

You’ll be clean as a whistle and feel much better for it.

Malachi: That sounds uncomfortable.

Doctor: If you don’t cleanse your gut of poop, sir, I can guarantee that such discomforts will be the least of your worries.

Malachi looks at the floor. He is obviously upset.

Doctor: Look here, old fellow. There is still hope, you know. Don’t be so crestfallen.

Right now your main concern should be your heart.

You have been mistreating it and it shows.

Your heartbeat is irregular and your stress test shows you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without being out of breath.

Malachi: What should I do?

Doctor: This calls for a total change in lifestyle and attitude.

Change your diet to something healthier. Eat good things.

Purge your body of the corruption that years of high living without any consideration to yourself have brought.

Malachi: But, Doctor, I am not all bad, you know. I take good care of my liver. I drink a very expensive tonic that takes care of my liver.

Lots of money I have spent on it.

My cousin brother’s wife’s uncle’s second son direct sells it to me. It’s a very good company, Conway.

Doctor: Hmmm, well, I must admit your liver is not in any danger of collapsing but really it is still showing the same wear and tear of any 50-year-old liver. The tonic has done very little except keep your liver in the state it has always been.

Besides, you must take care of your entire body.

You can’t just say I’ll take care of one bit and leave the others.

If you do that, everything will shut down and even the parts you take care of will be dead.

Malachi is quiet. The Doctor gets up to stand next to him.

He puts his hand on Malachi’s shoulder, which is brushed off rudely.

Malachi: You know what, Doctor. I don’t believe you. I feel fine.

Doctor: Look, you are deluding yourself. You are not fine. You are on the verge of collapse.

Malachi: That’s what you say, but I am going to get a second opinion.

I think you are biased and you have a hidden agenda. Maybe you want me to buy your medicine, huh?

Doctor: I want no such thing. You are my patient; I am here only to care for you.

Malachi: Hah! That’s what you say only. Well, I think you are an alarmist fraud. I am going to go to my son-in-law’s doctor. He will tell me I am fine.

The Doctor sighs resignedly.

Doctor: Very well then. I can’t force you to listen to me. Whatever happens, I hope you will take care of yourself. I’ll be here if you need me.

Malachi gets up to leave. He adjusts his waistband and flattens his comb-over. As he leaves, the Doctor calls out.

Doctor: Mal. Would you like a vitamin C tablet? It’s sweet.

Malachi: I am not a child, doctor. I am going to be 50 years old.

Doctor: (To himself: You could have fooled me). (To Mal) Oh yes, of course you are. Happy Birthday, Mal.

  • Dr Azmi Sharom is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya.