Monday, December 05, 2011


I went for my yearly medical check-up today, in the medical centre in the Admiralty Building. Usually I go to the Prince's Building, right in Central, but due to the idiosyncracies of scheduling, I had a 15 minutes walk today instead. I hope that doesn't play merry hell with the test results.

They run various blood tests, so you're meant to fast for at least 8 hours beforehand. Thus the last thing to pass my lips was a Triple O's vegetable burger at 8:30 last night, and without even the benefits of coffee I was in a bad mood this morning, ready to lash out at anything in my way. Quite happily there were no obstacles between office and medical centre for me to shout at.

The centre at Admiralty felt a bit quicker than the one in the Prince's Building, although the X-ray technician in the Prince's Building spoke better English than "Shirt! Shirt!" when he wanted me to partially disrobe. Not that I had to take off more than my shirt, and even that is a little odd. If X-rays can go right through your flesh, how is an (admittedly expensive, 120-weight) cotton shirt going to disrupt things at all? Maybe they've had jokers in the past packing lead-lined waistcoats.

After you're X-rayed, they give you a plastic jar to pee into. And a key on an enormous plastic toilet sign, because the toilet is down the hall, past the other offices on the 16th floor, by the lifts. In the Princes Building centre, the toilet is inside, so tenants in the rest of the floor aren't treated to the sight of people carrying small jars of urine down the hallway. Or stool samples, which fit into lovely purple jars with integral spoons in the lid.

Urine samples are wonderful things, if you like accidentally spraying pee over your hands, trousers and shoes as you try to direct the mid-stream stream of waste into the plastic cup. I suppose it is sterile, and I didn't douse myself too badly, but I had to spend some time tidying myself up, and then worrying that as well as fainting from lack of food, I'd be stinking up the medical centre.

They take some blood. Lots of blood. I felt like they'd clamped a mosquito on my arm, but it was just a lady with a ruddy big needle, and then a Japanese nurse wired me to the ECG machine (it's fun: these days they come with disposable stickers they slap over your body to attach the electrodes to, as if they were teenagers decorating a pencil case) before weighing me, testing my colour perception, and asking my waist measurement.

I'm not paying for this, the insurance is, but it doesn't strike me as the most rigorous of measurements. They don't ask you to say how much you weigh or how tall are you, so why do they trust my idea of my waist measurement? Or maybe I stank from the urine sample so much that she didn't want to get near me with a tape measure.

I got to blow into a tube. Years ago I went to see the doctor in Oxford, when I lived in a house that was literally rotting away, and mould crept up the walls. I cycled to the surgery as fast as I possibly could, didn't understand how to blow into the measuring device, and was swiftly diagnosed as asthmatic because of my lamentable lung capacity. I got given an asthma inhaler, which did just as described: every time I used it, it felt like I'd just got asthma, not tried to fix in, with my lungs hurting and wheezing away. Now I'm more proficient at blowing into things, because apparently my lung function is normal. Or normal for Hong Kong, which might not be good news.

And that was that - I was in and out in an hour and a half, including the time it took the doctor to give my ankle a derisory tap and listen to my chest with a stethoscope for half a minute. It will be a month before I discover if I've beaten my high score for cholesterol from last year - will I get an LDL in double figures? Did I eat enough cheese this year? Who can say?

Oh, and I'm armed with anti-malarials for my Christmas holiday, which is something I'm glad I've got sorted out before I go. I should be brimming over with antibiotic goodness before I land in the "mosquito coast"/"lovely beach resort" we've got planned...


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