Tuesday, 9 June 2009


I once had a conversation on the tube in London which went something* like this:

Cockney Geezer: "Awlroight sahn?"
Me: "Yup. Good. Yourself?"
CG: "Nahhh. Worried abaht me 'ealfh, ain't oye"
Me: "Your ELF?! You have an ELF? What, er, seems to be wrong with it? Do you not need a licence to keep an ELF?"
CG: ....

I've been paranoid about my 'elf for the past six months. I haven't had a post-Christmas cold for the first time in living memory, but being a bit of a malingering hypochondriac, I'm convinced that every slight sniffle is going to develop into West Nile Hemorrhagic Fever and the Transalp would become a distant dream. I'd managed to convince myself that I'd developed some kind of exercise-induced asthma as a way to explain a mild but persistent cough which was bugging me after bike rides. Convincing my doctor was less straightforward and I somewhat overlooked the fact that he is a professional sceptic who was never likely to indulge my feeble bleating by giving me lots of performance-enhancing steroid-based drugs. Instead he listened patiently before prescribing me with a peak-flow meter and a grid to chart it on. When I told him about the Transalp, he decided a chest X-ray and an ECG might be a good idea too - best to be on the safe side, eh?

I had to measure peak-flow at rest and then one minute after strenous exercise. A discrepancy of >15% could be an indication of an asthmatic type problem. My readings were 720 l/m before and 700 l/m afterwards. Doc wouldn't buy this... He called me in for a chat about the ECG and the X-ray but only because the ECG technician had been worried that my resting heart rate was too low. 50bpm - hardly Miguel Indurain. The irony of this wasn't lost on me as I ran the gauntlet of grey patients smoking outside the hospital, all seemingly determined to accelerate their demise. Doc patiently explained to me that what had been troubling me was an exercise-induced cough.

This weekend had given cause for new alarm. I'd been feeling a bit crappy at work on Thursday and Friday, but I'd put it down to gorging myself on a kilo of cherries on Wednesday. I still managed 3 hours riding at Pitmedden on Thursday evening, but by Saturday I was starting to feel like someone had set about my kidneys with a baseball bat and I was peeing like a racehorse. This persisted until Monday with little sleep and a great deal of moaning. Things feel a lot better today and, all being well, I'll be back on the bike tomorrow, but I suspect I'll be hectoring the Doc again just in case I've got an exercise-induced kidney malady:

Doctor: "Yes Mr. Campbell, what is it now?"
Me: "Well doctor, I'm worried abaht me elf..."

*This conversation probably never happened, but why let the truth stand in the way of a long, rambling blog post?

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