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In the Doc!

Last week I went for an eye checkup.  I get this annual eye test done every four or five years.

Left to myself, I will have this annual test once a decade or some such. For, I hate this drops-administered dilation of pupils after which for the rest of that night everything looks bright at the edges and splotchy in the middle, as if cranked out by cameraman Babu for the drug-addled Kamal Haasan character in Thoongadhe Thambi Thoongadhe.

But I either lose my existing spectacles or it gets broken, and I have to necessarily go for a new pair, and before getting which I generally submit myself to an eye doctor, who after examining me usually says “everything is okay, but…”

The doctor needn’t finish the sentence. You veteran middle-age people will know what this usage of ‘but’ generally entails: It means the eye doctor, or for that matter any other doctor you may have gone to, is going to schedule you for a few tests that will, in most cases, lead to the finding that your health insurance covers every medical condition in the world except the one that you are being investigated for.

“… we may need to a have couple of precautionary tests done. This is just to rule out a few possibilities that can be… well, we will not get into it now,”  the doctor will say in a Manmohan Singh-like tone sucked out of any emotion. “But why have doubts we will get it cleared now itself. It is better to be safe than be sorry,” the doc will add. Speaking in totally vague, generalistic terms is the first lesson they teach at the medical school.

“But why do we have to do this test, doctor?” you may probably ask.

The doctor, with an audible sigh, will reach for your X-ray report, hold it against the light, and say “do you see there…” pointing to something on the report that will look nothing out of ordinary to you, but you will still nod your head as if you understand what he is saying. “Those two spots that you see there is what worries me”, the doctor will draw your attention to the spot that you had all along been thinking to be some kind of printer’s smudge.

“What are those spots?” you will innocently ask. “That is what we have to ascertain now,” the doctor will answer cryptically. “I mean what could those spots be, doctor?” you will persist. “It could be anything. It could be just an inflammation. It could be be a simple tumescence. It could be an ordinary edema,” the doctor will imperceptibly switch over to terms that you will not find in any household dictionary. This technique they have learned from the judicial community.

“Tell me in layman terms, what do you suspect, doctor?” you will ask in helpless exasperation.

“Well, since you ask, and I can’t say this with any amount of certainty, and I still say this is just a precautionary test and everything can turn out to be a false alarm…” doctors can prolong the suspense more laboriously than your weekly soap.

And finally, the doctor, still looking at the report ‘those spots could be tumourous/cancerous/anything similarly dangerous…” after that whatever the doctor says may not reach your ears as you may be looking around for a spot to faint.

But you will somehow get up, walk yourself out and reach home, eventually schedule the suggested test (most importantly, as laid down by the stringent MCI rules, at the suggested scan centre) and get back to the doctor with the reports after a few days.  But you would have died a few thousand deaths in that period.

The doctor will, poker-faced, run his eyes across the sheaf of papers specked with dubious dark pics of some part of you and then will turn to you, “well, it is clear. There is nothing to worry. Those spots just turned out to be images of two bugs in the X-ray machine”. Okay, the last sentence is an exaggeration. But only just.

Doctors always love playing these tricks.  The time I went to an ophthalmologist for a routine checkup a few years ago, he said that I needed to get my brain scanned because “your optic nerve is abnormally thick which could be a symptom of…well, I don’t want to scare you, just get me the scan report” and when I did get back to him with the report, he said, and I quote, “abnormal optic nerve is not exactly uncommon and your case is just that. You are in the clear now”. At that moment, I clearly wished that India had a liberal gun policy.

Anyway, last week when I presented myself before a (different) ophthalmologist, the first thing I told him was: “Doctor, I have come for a regular checkup. But I have to tell you this. My optic nerve is abnormal. But it is normal with me. I already have a scan report to prove it”.

It was uneventful after that.


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