Yesterday I visited my local doctor (General Practitioner, or GP, in the British vernacular) about a hypochondria based toe-injury, and got a lesson in psychological medicine.
My poor toe originally got injured, as I explained to the doc, at a Rock City Nirvana gig in 1991. As the mosh-pit jumped up and then crashed down in unison to the first bars of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, my Converse-clad indie-kid feet came off worst in an encounter with a crusties’ para-booted hooves.
I learned the lesson and always wore boots with reinforced toe-caps to gigs thereafter, but the crushed toe was left to heal itself. Twenty-six years later it still causes occasional minor pain and recently the nail has started form a crust underneath. My Dad has been banging on at me to get it checked out for years and, after reading a biography of Bob Marley that revealed that the cancer that killed him stemmed from an old toe-injury, I thought it was time to see my GP.
I managed to get through about half of the above explanation before my doctor started laughing. “So you think it is serious?” he asked. “I don’t know”, I said, “what do you think?”. Queue more laughter. “It’s a fungal infection, you idiot” came the reply, followed by another question: “What do you think I am going to suggest as a remedy?”.
Medical knowledge is not my forte, but I was nevertheless fairly confident in suggesting some kind of anti-fungal varnish, although slightly concerned that I seemed to be the one providing the medical advice. More laughter.
“No, no, no, that won’t work”, he intoned with sudden seriousness, as leaning into me he said in a deep, bass voice of African origin “what you need is witchcraft”. Pause. Growing grin. Full-on belly laugh from the doc. Perplexity from the patient, until the laughter got infectious and we spent a good twenty seconds chuckling together.
I left cured of my not-so-life-threatening toe injury, suddenly relaxed after two weeks of constant work travel, and more proud than ever of our wonderful public health service and the doctors and nurses from all over the world that make it so special. Moreover, I have a vote-winning contribution to make to Jeremy Corbyn’s growing change movement – let’s fight to keep laughter free on the NHS!