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A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster
If there was ever a case of someone misdiagnosing a serious illness it is this one. If you are a geezer, or rapidly approaching geezer-hood, you will probably remember this wonderful duet from the 1950 musical Call Me Madam. It was sung by the inebriated – no, that’s not the word, the incompatible – no that’s not right, unconstitutional – nope, um, well, they were good singers anyway, Ethel Merman and Donald O’Connor – good singers for sure, but as we will soon see, pee-poor doctors.
Now I want you to think about this for a minute
I hear singing and there’s no one there
I smell blossoms and the trees are bare
All day long I seem to walk on air
I wonder why
I wonder why
I keep tossing in my sleep at night
And what’s more I’ve lost my appetite
Stars that used to twinkle in the sky are twinkling in my eye
I wonder why
Then Ethel sings:
You don’t need analyzing it is not so surprising
That you feel very strange but nice
Your heart goes pitter-patter
I know just what’s the matter
Because I’ve been there once or twice
Put your head on my shoulder you need someone who’s older
A rubdown down with a velvet glove
There is nothing you can take to relieve that pleasant ache
You’re not sick you’re just in love
My friends, I hate to tell you this, but love was not Donald’s problem. He had, at the very least, a urinary tract infection and we all know where he got that and how. Well, maybe you don’t, but I read somewhere that he was just back from a weekend in Tijuana, and he had been an awfully bad boy. The result of this little amorous adventure affected his whole life.
Think about that for a minute, did you ever see a movie made after 1950 where Donald got the girl? No you did not. In Singin’ in the Rain Debbie Reynolds gets lucky and we assume shacks up with Gene Kelly. Donald ends up dancing with a dummy and crashing through a wall, all very funny but not exactly sexually fulfilling. Plus, he spent several months in traction – alone. Even the nurses stayed well away from him. They weren’t stupid.
True, Ethel’s suggestion of ‘a rubdown with a velvet glove’ would certainly have taken his mind off the inevitable itch, but it would do no good at all for his heart that was going pitter-patter; that, my friends was clearly atrial fibrillation and that pleasant ache she was singing about was an angina attack and the silly ass should have been on his way to L.A. General in the back of an ambulance.
What I’m running on about here is not Donald O’Conner’s love life; it is the dangers of self-diagnosis. Checking out your heart’s pitter-patter on Google is a one-way ticket to St. Andrew’s – St. James’ Cemetery. I know, I know, there is all kinds of information out there on the internet from the Mayo Clinic to the guy down the street who watches re-runs of Marcus Welby every afternoon, and I know the lineups at the E.R are sometimes around the block – and that is on a slow day, but Dr. Google, if he even went to a medical school, not only didn’t graduate, but passes out at the sight of blood – just like Doc Martin on Vision TV.
I realize it is tempting to check out some minor ailment like that annoying rectal itch or the sudden attack of memory loss when you realize your car is upside down on the neighbour’s lawn, but you would be much wiser to seek professional medical help for the itch and hire a lawyer to talk to the policeman who is just about to knock on your front door.
I must admit even I have, on occasion, looked up the odd symptom rather than ask someone with a brain for advice. For the most part I have been remarkably accurate with my diagnoses, but occasionally I have slipped up. For instance, back in 2012, I may have erred slightly about the cause of the pain running down my right arm. As I was saying to the nurse rolling me into the cardiac operating theatre at Southlake, “I am sure Dr. Google said left arm.”