‘Why are you here today?’ The practice nurse asks, rifling through the papers on her desk.
‘I’ve come for a blood test,’ I say. ‘It’s three years since my last one. I used to have them every year before Covid, along with a review of my medication.’
‘I’ll need to measure you first,’ she says. ‘Can you stand against that wall over there?’
The logic of this escapes me. It turns out I’ve shrunk by an inch since I was last measured. It’s hardly surprising. It must be all of fifty years ago, most probably when I was applying for my first passport.
‘Don’t worry,’ the nurse says, attempting to reassure me. ‘It’s all part of the ageing process. I’ll also need to weigh you. Can you pop on the scales for me.’
I’m not going to be popping anywhere, and I won’t be doing it for her, anyway. I’ll be doing it for myself. But I know better than to say anything.
‘You could do with losing a few pounds,’ she announces. ‘Your body mass index is on the borderline.’
I point out that when I weigh myself at home, I am not fully dressed, and I don’t have my shoes on. She dismisses this as insignificant.
‘What’s your diet like?’ She asks. ‘Do you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables?’ How about cheese? You shouldn’t be eating more than a matchbox-size piece every two to three days, you know. I know all this. It was pointed out to me fifteen years ago when I first started on the angina medication. I have all the dos and don’ts stuck on my fridge at home. Not that they’ve always stuck on me.
‘I find a bit of salad with a few prawns is enough for lunch,’ she continues. ’If I eat a pie, I feel bloated and lethargic all afternoon,’ she says, inviting me to share my own eating habits with her.
I can’t recall when, if ever, I’ve eaten a pie for lunch. But I am in zipped-up mode. I refrain from telling her I don’t like prawns, scavengers at the bottom of the sea, I call them. They’ll eat anything they come across, however unsavoury. Not me.
This review is interminable. All I want to know is my cholesterol levels. It took me nine weeks to get this far. First there was a six-week-wait for a telephone interview. That nurse just read through the indications on the packets and told me to ‘keep on taking the pills.’ Not that I had any intention of stopping, unless told to do so by a heart consultant. Then there was another three-week-wait before I got the appointment for a blood test.
‘And do you do exercise?’ she continues.
‘Well, I swim and do yoga,’ I say. ‘And I walk most days. Last week I did nine miles with my walking group.’
A look of surprise flashes across her face.
‘The government requires us to give out all this advice,’ she says. ‘But you don’t have to follow it.’
Why bother giving it, I wonder, but I keep my trap firmly shut. The nurse seems anxious to draw the encounter to a close. Finally, she sticks the needle in, extracts the required amount of blood and takes my blood pressure.
‘Your blood pressure is a bit on the low side,’ she says. ‘But it’s nothing to worry about. Your 75-year review is now complete.’
I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing. Thinking about it, I’ve done the NHS a favour. It was me who asked for the review in the first place. I doubt if they would have called me.
‘Don’t ring us for the results’, she says, before I manage to ask. ‘We’ll ring you in a week to ten days’ time.’
When I finally get the all-clear, I go out and treat myself to a slap-up meal. I figure I’ve earned it.
About the auhtor
Jenny Palmer writes short stories, poetry, memoir and family history. Her stories are on the Cafelit website. Her collection 'Keepsake and other stories,' published by Bridge House, 2018, is available on Amazon. Her work is sold at the Pendle Heritage Centre, Barrowford and at the Ice Cream shop, Downham.
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