The brightest flower in the bunch

Thursday October 26, 2006

“How are you today, Mr Bailey?” the nurse asked, poised to jab me with this year’s ‘flu vaccine.

“I’m on top of the world, thank you.”

“How do you manage that?”

“Search me.”

“Well, if you ever find out, please let me know. I could do with some of it myself.”

And, with a tiny sting, the vaccine was administered and I was on my way out of the treatment room, my three-minute slot all used up.

I took myself off to spend my ritual fifteen minutes sitting on a bench in the sun outside the surgery. I’ve never had an adverse reaction immediately after the jab but when they say you should rest before driving away I’m more than happy to comply. I have the time.

Thinking about it now the answer to the nurse’s plea is tied up quite neatly in the contrast between the three-minute slot and my freedom to take the time to rest for fifteen minutes. I have the time to feel on top of the world. These busy people, like busy people all over the world, don’t have that luxury. They have targets to meet, time-tables to follow.

There’s nothing wrong with being busy. Being busy is good. You do need to take a little quiet time out though, every day, for the pursuit of the serenity you can find in yourself. Too much of either doesn’t work. It’s a question of balance.

From the surgery I went on to the supermarket to pick up my daily provisions, sailing along on my feel-good factor. Did a fair job of it but when I got back to the car I found I’d forgot to pick up laundry consumables. I had a difficult decision to make on that one. Should I take time to walk back into the store or should I get myself home, take my lunch, and sleep off the slight weariness that often follows a couple of hours after the ‘flu jab? Again, I erred on the side of caution and motored off back home to a lunch of Greek salad and crusty bread, followed by my nap.

As it happens, I could have done the extra bit of shopping. It’s no great thing of course. The world won’t stop in its orbit because I take a twenty-four hour break in my weekly laundry routine. It’s a bit of a waste, though, to waste any of that ‘top of the world’ feeling.

Anyway, another year, another ‘flu jab, and I can face the coming winter content that I have done and am doing everything I can to avoid or to minimise the impact of an attack of the dreaded disease. And then, blow me down, I discover that some miserable, misguided medic has publicly questioned the value of the national vaccination programme, indicating when interviewed that ‘flu jabs are a waste of time.

Now, I don’t question his professional expertise and I agree that these things do need to be evaluated constantly, in the quiet and seclusion of medical research establishments. But his timing in going public with his doubts? Right in the middle of the ‘flu jab season? I fear that this is a man more concerned with his personal fame than with the public good. I have news for him. That ain’t fame, it’s notoriety.

Many people fear injections of any kind. Some of them, hearing this news, will decide in consequence not to take their jab this year. Some of those will contract the ‘flu for lack of protection. Some of those will become seriously ill, and some will die. What public good will be served by that? I know that the ‘flu vaccination does not carry a hundred percent guarantee that we’ll not be afflicted; even so, it’s good practice, surely, to do what we can with the tools to hand.

Hey ho. I’m reminded of the old approach to the career selection process undertaken by well-to-do families with multiple sons. The brightest of them were directed to take up Holy Orders and enter the Church. The stupid ones were advised to go into the Army. The really stupid ones were encouraged to become doctors. Times change and it was never anything but a cruel observation. It is still the case, however, that not all doctors are necessarily the brightest flowers in the bunch.


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