Poor young França has been poorly these last couple of weeks. The local sawbones hadn’t a clue what it might be and suggested that someone was upset with him and had ‘hexed’ him. The only cure would be to weight him (the quack, not França) with silver. Marcia took the boy to the private clinic in Luanda. I know that such a course amounts to the same thing but at least they rob you in (slightly) more hygienic surroundings.
They decided he had tuberculosis. A remarkable diagnosis, I thought, considering they had arrived at such a conclusion armed only with a stethoscope. Naturally, he was given a prescription for a week’s supply of anti-biotics.At school one of our classmates was diagnosed with TB . He was sent to Torquay. We all wanted TB as well; until we heard he’d died, then none of us wanted to go to Devon anymore. What little I know of TB suggests that it is infectious, deadly if not treated correctly and requires a long course of the increasingly scarce anti-biotics to which the disease has not developed a resistance. If França really did have TB, then once again African doctors were doing their bit for drug resistant bacteria. Odd as it sounds, I actively discouraged Marcia from taking Alex to the doctor every time he sniffled. I did this for the sake of his future health. Loading him up with ABs every time he coughed or had a runny nose would degrade his own natural defences and here, natural defences are one’s best form of survival. Alex was diagnosed as an asthmatic allergic. I suggested that Marcia stopped burning mosquito coils in the house.
The doctors cited the lack of meat on França’s frame as evidence of the debilitating effect of chronic TB. I know that when it comes to França, I have seen more meat on a butcher’s pencil, but he has always been painfully thin, even after a couple of years of feeding at my table. I have never seen it but have it on good authority, he has to run around in the shower to get wet. Some people are naturally this tall and thin and usually go on to become basketball players or successful cat burglars. Still, even though I reckoned all he had was a chesty cough, I have heard of people living and wasting away for years with undiagnosed TB so it was better to have the possibility ruled out. To do this, I knew, required chest x-rays, sputum and blood tests.There are good arguments for just treating for the symptoms rather than waste time on a positive diagnosis but, in my humble opinion, they apply only when rapid death would result through want of treatment, cerebral malaria is a good example, but in the case of TB, a positive diagnosis would be awfully useful, especially for those who have been living in close proximity to the lad, so I was rather unsympathetic with an attitude of ‘Why bother, we know what it is so we’ll just treat him.’ And would that mean my family, and half the rest of the village also undergoing this treatment? I wanted to know because if França did have TB, I was going to hit every alarm button and activate every medical emergency procedure I know.
‘Look, Marcia,’ I said, ‘if the lad has TB, he’d be hawking up bloody great docker’s oysters, França’s cough is dry.’It was agreed, therefore, that we would pay for all x-rays and tests (why wouldn’t we?) but they were upset at the suggestion that since I was paying for the tests, the results would be mine to send to Europe for a second opinion. I do not trust these fuckers, they would rather a patient died than they be proven wrong, or in this case, initiate a full scale TB panic in the Hippo household when all the boy had was a cough.
Well, he didn’t have TB. But they couldn’t say what was causing the cough. Fair enough, I am sure identifying every ailment presented to them is bloody hard even for the best GP. Even professors, leaders in their field couldn’t identify the bug that dissolved my leg.Having enjoyed the time off I reluctantly granted the slacker, França came back to work this morning. Still skinny as ever but fit as a fiddle. Last night I had made myself a proper stew. A bloody great cast iron cauldron full. I put everything into it, loads of meat of course, carrots, onions, celery, sweet potatoes, sweet peppers, habanero peppers, red wine, rich homemade meat stock, and let it simmer all evening right up ‘til bedtime. Today I sat França at the table and ladled a huge bowl full of the stodge for him.
‘Get that down yer neck, son,’ I told him handing him a chunk of bread and a glass of milk.‘So they never found out what it was then?’ I asked him.
‘No,’ he said.‘Anyone else have this cough in your house?’ I was thinking of his siblings.
‘Yes, but not as bad,’ he said.‘Do you still use the mosquito nets we gave you?’
‘No, they’re all torn’‘So what do you do about the mosquitoes?’
‘Marcia gives us Dragões to burn.’
Dragão is Pork & Cheese for Dragon, the colloquial name for mosquito coils.I should have used my diagnostic question technique earlier, I could have saved myself all the fees for x-rays and tests and just bought them new mosquito nets.
|Put hairs on yer chest that will my lad|