Today I woke up feeling postively shit. Aching all over the place, slight nausea, a sore throat… Under any other circustances I would have blamed my insane idea of going to a Pilates class despite my tracksuit being soaked in rain after being caught in a storm of monsonic proportions (welcome to Britain’s summer: it’s been raining since the beginning of July in this God forsaken country…) Any normal person at my place would have forgotten about the class and returned home to change and take a hot bath. But I decided to proceed to the gym and go through an hour of excercise watching my wet clothes dripping and leaving a puddle under my Swiss Ball. Add air conditioning blowing on me (WHY do they need air con when the temperature outside is 17 degrees only the Lord knows) and you have a sure recipee for bronchitis.
But, as we all know, the UK is in full swine flu panic these days, the Tube is covered in disgusting posters of people sneezing – drops flying from their nose all around them as if a sneeze was some sort of atomic bomb. “CATCH IT, BIN IT, KILL IT” says the poster in capital letters, meaning you’d better sneeze into a tissue unless you desire to be lynched by the crowd standing on your same train. Japanese tourists wear little masks, Italian young people on study holidays carry disynfectants with them and obsessively keep washing their hands like Lady Macbeth while checking whether they’ve taken the correct branch of the Northern Line. Only the British pretend not to care, too “superior” to be bothered by pandemias, stoic to the very end…
So I drag myself to the lounge feeling sorry for myself and wondering how the hell I’m going to contact my boyfriend to tell him I cant meet him in Waterloo (his mobile is broken and he’s not home… The joys of technology…) I turn on the TV and, of course, swine flu is the first news. The governement has issued an order for anybody suffering from flu syntoms NOT to go to a doctor or an emergercy room. Right. You’re asked instead not to leave home and to ring a helpline, where some random call centre operator WITHOUT MEDICAL BACKGROUND (and probably just arrived from Poland) will go through a series of questions with you to establish whether you have contracted the abominable disease.
Alternatively, you can take the same test online. Of course, being an hypocondriac but also suspecting a chance for comic relief, I immedately switch on my laptop and take the test.
“Is the patient in a state of confusion? Do they cry a lot (babies only)”
Hmmm, lets see… I’m confused most days of my life about most things and totally unable to make rational choices… And I do cry a lot, despite not being a baby. Does it count? It’s not a newly developed condition though, I’ve had it my whole life, so unless I was born with swine flu, that’s a no.
“Has the patient’s colour turned to grey or blue?”
Oh, dear, I hope not. To be honest I’ve never seen anyone turning blue while having flu, unless they’ve already reached corpse state… are we sure this virus comes from pigs and not from alien creatures?
“Are they having a fit right now?”
Actually, I’m about to have a fit because my idiotic neighbour has left his smelly dog on the stairs once again, as if our communal areas were a dog recreation centre….
“Or, despite any pain they may have, is the patient completely unable to move their chin down to touch their chest?”
Darling, after 10 years of Pilates I’m so flexible I could touch my bum with my chin while singing the Marseillese if I really tried… What are you talking about?
“We will now check if the patient is suffering from flu. Does the patient have a high temperature and at least two of the following symptoms?
Widespread muscle and joint aches
Blocked or runny nose
Oh my good I have them all! I’m fucked. I have swine flu, I’m going to die. Hold on, though. This list contains the most generic symptoms ever. They can appear in all sorts of diseases, from laringitis to malaria to… pregnancy!
Let’s click and proceed, perhaps the test will get more detailed…
“Is the patient also experiencing any of these additional symptoms:
“Breathing much faster than normal (particularly children) . “Hmmm, NO.
“Thick, yellow, green, brown or bloody phlegm. “Yuk, NO
“Uncharacteristic changes in behaviour such as drowsiness, new confusion or appearing terrified.”
Well… I appear very terrified. Mostly because if this is the way Britain is planning to cope with a potentially lethal disease, wE can just all commit mass suicide now.
How can anyone be diagnosed online? Or on the phone? And by somebody who’s not a doctor? Of course the country now counts 100.000 cases, a bunch of young call centre operators have the power of declaring you sick without even seeing you. And how do they know I’m not making up the symptoms just to be given Tamiflu and then sell it online on Ebay?
The problem is that if I do have flu and I start feeling worse, no hospital and no doctor would accept to see me, unless I’m really really sick. It happened to people I know. They went to the emergency room only to be sent away in case they infected the doctors! This is histerical. It’s a sit-com. Instead of having a medical team wearing protective masks and testing people for real British hospitals are now treating potential flu sufferers like outcasts. First they created wide sperad panic, now that people are positively scared they expect them to just stay home and take an online test, as if flu diagnosis was like one of those Facebook games: “Which actress of the past are you? Go through the test and find out! Congratulations! You’re Beth Davis!” Damn, I wanted to be Marilyn Monroe…
People who are declared sick by the “infallible” computer/phone test, will be asked to stay at home and contact a close friend or relative who will have to go and collect Tamiflu from a special centre and then pass it to the sick person through a letterbox, to avoid contact…
What if somebody doesnt have any buddies or relatives living nearby and available? Will they die in seclusion? Shall we all nominate a couple of Tami-mates, ready to run and get antibiotic for us?
And what if somebody doesnt have a letterbox????
This is just hilarious, if it wasn’t also very tragic. Most of us will go through swine flu and come out fine, with or without Tamiflu. However other people will be “cleared” only to discover at too late a stage that they have swine flu and perhaps suffer very serious consequences.
Tamiflu has been randomly given away to people who might not need it at all and potentially refused to real sufferers, with the risk not only of running short of supply but also of making the virus drug-resistant.
This is the third world. I’m truly disgusted by public services in Britain, from hospital to schools to transport .This country is falling apart.
Or perhaps Europe is falling apart, western civilization as we know it is falling apart, we’ve reached our climax ages ago and now we’re heading for our zenith, every country in its own perverse way: Italy with politicians who use their power to hire a court of prostitutes in the total indifference of most of the population. Britain with a public system that is collapsing, and a political system that most of the population dont give a damn about… All over Europe right wing parties and racists are gaining support…
At the end of the online test the computer has decided I dont have swine flu but that I should stay home just in case and seek extra help if the symptoms worsen. Extra help where, since I wont be allowed to see a doctor? What if I do have it, just in a mild version – as most people – and I’m now going to infect every person I get in contact with? Since I had my tonsils removed at the age of five I’ve never, ever had high fever, not once, even when I do get flu. How can they be sure unless they test me?
Oh come on, I cant die without watching the last ever episode of Guiding Light in September… It’s out of the question.
I’d better laugh and hope it’s laringitis.