Now that the white coat strike that engulfed most of Pakistan is over, we can all be happily sick again. Yippee! Ah, the sheer joy of being down with an ailment with a fancy name and being seen by a smug, grim-faced physician with fancy degrees and fancier fees and taking meds with even fancier names and prices! I missed all that, so I went to see someone for a minor skin rash. I got a thorough examination, replete with detailed, magnified observations of my epidermis, totally worth the four-digit consultation fee. The physician in question, who literally lives off other people’s skins, gave me a rather archetypal grave, bespectacled look.
“From what I can tell,” he said, stroking his neatly-preened, fashionably-cropped beard, “you have atopic vesiculovulgarodisgustodermatosis.”
I was dumbfounded. “What-a-mosis?” I exclaimed, alarmed yet rather pleased at the prestigious-sounding disease.
The dermatologist offered a plastic smile. “Let me explain in lay terms. The Langerhans cells in the strataspinosum of your epidermal tissue have auto-immunised themselves against the papillary and reticular layers of your dermal tissue leading to a fulminant yet localised bulbovesiculopustular inflammatory reaction. It’s a rare condition. There is no known cure, as such.”
I eyed him with an increasing sense of the finiteness of life. “So you’re saying…?” I ventured.
“Your rash is incurable. However, it’s quite treatable. I’ve got a specially-prepared ointment for conditions like yours. It is only available at my clinic and is a tad expensive, but it’s highly effective as long as you use it continuously thrice a day for months on end. I can assure you, you’ll be fine. Just keep visiting regularly.”
I left his clinic considerably poorer and with a gnawing sense of foreboding. He seemed qualified and all, but I don’t know. I’ve heard dermatologists always make rash decisions.
Not quite having lost my faith in doctors, I decided it was time the wife got a medical check-up. No one can remain indefinitely healthy without something sinister and un-pronounceable lurking within their system. So without further ado, and fearing a possible strike by the Old Doctors’ Association, we reported to a gynaecologist. Her clinic was decked with pictures of cherubic Nido-esque babies with posters and flyers claiming that, by the grace of the Almighty, you could have the baby of your choice delivered to you. Yes, the pun is mine but the ads were serious. They touted a new ‘computerised, scientific’ technique that ensured not just fertility but picture-perfect male babies. The mastermind — mistressmind? — of this revolutionary method was a heavily-made up lady with dyed-hair who exuded authority, gruffness and a short attention span. “Should a woman have babies after 35?” was my first query, as the wife,
unbeknownst to most, had recently achieved this milestone. “No,” the gyno shook her head. “Thirty-five kids are enough!”
We realised that we’d reached some kind of medical freak and decided to leave, but the doc insisted on giving the wife a thorough check-up. Her tone was oddly reminiscent of that employed by characters perennially named Igor in successive B-movies. We thought of the exorbitant consultation fee we’d just paid and decided to stay. I was thankfully turned out during the examination procedure and by the time I returned the verdict was clear. My wife, the doc announced in all bleakness, was suffering from endoexpensodiabolicometriosis, a rare condition that involved “severe endocervical epithelium and stroma replication and inflammation” and needed a lot of meds and expensive surgeries to fix. But the wife is perfectly fine, I insisted. “That’s what you think, mister,” the lady snapped. I was reminded of all the classic Disney witches. Except that they were less rude and somewhat better-looking.
We left the clinic with a hefty prescription of tests, meds and follow-ups, hoping for another white coat strike, soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, April 24th, 2011.
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