LEAVING WELL ENOUGH ALONE MAY NOT BE HEALTHY

Doctors can be such killjoys.

I remember visiting a mate of mine from university who’d just suffered a heart attack. There were other friends around, one of whom happened to be a doctor.

The thing about any illness and people over 60 is that the conversation almost invariably graduates to antioxidants.

Say the topic is cancer or Bell’s Palsy – I’m just showing of here – and, bingo, antioxidant supplements will be mentioned. It’s like bees and honey, it’s a kind of hand in hand analogy.

In that particular instance, one chap said that the way to avoid all things nasty was a supplement called CoQ10 and the others nodded knowingly as the words “powerful antioxidant” reverberated around the room.

“Nonsense,” exclaimed the doctor who proceeded to explain that all these supplements were just advertising gimmicks and mere placebos designed to enrich big pharma, with emphasis on Pharma. But he was a UK-trained paediatrician and a board-certified conspiracy theorist to boot, so we just changed the subject.

But the face of the guy advocating the supplement fell miserably: he’d been taking it for years.

Pity the poor hypochondriac. He goes to the doctor who tells him he has hypochondria. Patient: “Not that as well.”

Actually, if you consider all the nasties just waiting to get under your skin, hypochondria might be the way to go. Just think of what’s out there: bacteria, viruses, fungi, mites, pollution, chemicals, bad water, bad food, bad genes. Sheer bad luck! Then there are the syndromes, the diseases, the maladies, ailments, afflictions, complaints, sicknesses and the just plain horrors lurking around the corner, and it’s enough to drive you screaming into your local Vitacare.

In the face of such overwhelming statistical possibilities, the most logical position to take on life would be the hypochondriac’s. It seems the most rational and is eminently commonsensical besides.

It’s enough to make you appreciate the wonder of humankind’s capacity for improvement, the extent to which we’ve extended our lifespans from our Neanderthal brethren. From that perspective, being healthy and over 60 is a blessing and Dr Mahathir belongs in a museum.

Even so, the medical scepticism over supplements seems to have taken a revisionist turn since the onset of the CoVid-19 pandemic.

When it first began, all the hypochondriac-leaning literature advised us to beef up our immune system so we stocked up on things we normally would never dream of buying like zinc and Vitamin D.

I can almost hear the doctor friend of mine saying all you need for Vitamin D is a “walk in the sun.”

But now even Dr Sanjay Gupta of CNN fame advises the same.

For the true-blue Hypo though, I suppose the way to go is the way of a very rich Malaysian banker who continues to live in a private hospital 24/7.

He is there secure in the knowledge that there are capped and gowned specialists waiting alertly for any twinge, throb, pain, soreness, pang or spasm that he might experience before they spring into action armed with the best knowledge money can buy.

And if all else fails, your epitaph can always read “I told you I was sick” and you still make a point.

ENDS

BEING A FUN GUY IS A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW

The ambient temperature in Malaysian is well suited to the growth of mushrooms on cow-dung after a rainstorm, apparently. But the police are now warning that these mushrooms may be hallucinogenic.

Actually they are. These fungi contain psilobycin which is a powerful hallucinogenic almost guaranteed to blow anyone’s mind and used to lend the word “magic” to a certain type of mushroom.

But they smell rank and have to be dried before use. Malaysian police say that they are crushed or liquidised and added to drinks to become the rage in wild parties across the Klang Valley.

Is this what they meant when they said we were on the cusp of a New World Odour?

The round robber known as Felonious alias Jho Low thought it was just bullshit and he had a point there. Felonious hated reading such articles because it reminded him of the wild parties he used to throw when he was the toast of the town in Hollywood.

Now he was merely toast and a wanted man in several countries. But at least he was free, he reminded himself while nibbling on caviar-encrusted crackers in between regretful sips of an ice-cold white wine.

Even so, the substantial scallywag was nothing if not practical. At his very core, Felonious was a paunchy pragmatist for be believed in looking forward and not dwelling on the past. In fact, he was all for the future and moving on.

If only the Malaysian, Singaporean, US and the Swiss police were similarly disposed, life would be so much easier, reflected the philosophical perisher and heaved a deep sigh. And with a cheerful cry of “needs must, I suppose,” he turned his attention to weightier matters like the menu he was considering for the party he was throwing tonight for certain high ranking party officials in the enclave he was officially not residing in.

“I should be so lucky,” grumbled Fearless Leader, Felonious’ one-time mentor, the Batman to Fatso’s Robin. Fearless was peeved because on Wednesday, the Inland Revenue Board had filed a bankruptcy notice against him for failing to pay RM1.69 billion in additional tax arrears between 2011 to 2017.

Lesser mortals might have turned to hallucinogenic mushrooms when confronted with such a bleak prospect. Not Fearless though: he merely complained that the authorities were plotting to “derail my political career.”

That the former leader felt he still had a political career to salvage spoke volumes about his cool and the confidence he still nurtures about his future.

He has already been sentenced to 12 years jail and fined millions by the High Court for money laundering and corruption. His appeal is now wending its way through the Court of Appeal where his principal defence appears to revolve around the High Court Judge’s competence or lack thereof. Some lawyers might argue that it isn’t necessarily the best way to win friends and influence judges.

Fearless concluded his lengthy Facebook post by saying he would “not be cowed by those attempting to persecute me.”

Watching admiringly from the side-lines, Felonious thought it wasn’t complete bull.

ENDS

A SHOT IN THE ARM FOR US

We’d been in Singapore since September so we weren’t surprised when Rebecca received the call last week.

We were to report to the Queenstown Community Centre at 7 pm on Wednesday for the first of our vaccinations.

We didn’t know which vaccine but a surprisingly knowledgeable Grab driver set us straight Saturday.

Driver: “You got your shots-ah?

My wife: “We will, this Wednesday. But we don’t know what we’re getting.”

Driver: “Where getting the shot?”

(He’s thumbing through his phone while continuing to drive. Unnerving, to say the least.)

Becky: “Queenstown.”

Driver: “Ah that, Pfizer only. Only four places got Moderna-one”

(Waves his phone at us as if that clinches it. We nod, dumbly, and suspect he’s right.)

He was.

The Queenstown Community Centre is many things to the neighbourhood. There is a small mosque, two tennis courts, notices announcing everything from yoga to acupuncture; numerous rooms for presumably those purposes and a large, cavernous hall that’s been set up for mass vaccination.

It’s extremely efficient. At our first stop, they peruse our IDs and elicit a brief medical history. They just want to know if we have had or are being treated for cancers or any autoimmune disease. That would, apparently, rule us out.

Then they want to know about allergies, specifically, those that cause anaphylaxis or severe breathing difficulties. I reply no but I do have those that cause “hives” and they say that’s fine.

Nasty, they admit, but OK.

We’d come prepared. An hour before, we’d both taken two paracetamol (Panadol, in another word) on advice from my doctor-niece. I’d also added an antihistamine.

You can never be too careful.

We joined those in line for their shots. There were chairs in socially distanced rows so it was a comfortable wait. Our peers were mostly elderly – ourselves, in another word – and some were accompanied by their children.

In Singaporean terms, these were Heartlanders, the ones who stay in HDB apartments, the brick and mortar of the People’s Action Party.

It took about 15 minutes before my wife was called and a sympathetic attendant asked me if she needed me to hold her hand.

“Are you kidding?” I replied. “If anything, I’ll need her to hold mine!”

That got a laugh, at least. When my turn came, the nurse pointed out the potential side effects – pain at the jab-site, headache, body ache and, rarely, fever – and again went through its contra-indications.

I think she must have applied some local anaesthetic on my left arm as well because I didn’t feel a thing.

More sitting around followed. Both of us felt fine although my wife’s arm was quite sore. But her ache disappeared the next day. We both felt sleepy though and had an early night.

I didn’t get off scot free, however, The next evening. I had an allergic reaction with hives. Thankfully, I was fine on Good Friday but not without the aid of a trusty antihistamine.

You got to hand it to Singapore. When vaccines began to be first approved worldwide, the republic went about purchasing Pfizer, Moderna and even the one from China.

But only the first two have been used with the Chinese vaccine yet to be approved. The point: Singapore bought first so that it wouldn’t have to wait.

I asked the nurse how many people she’d vaccinated that day and she shrugged tiredly: “Countless.”

I believe her: officially, the republic estimates it can vaccinate 80% of its population by June.

ENDS