I received a very polite email this week. “Dear Ben,” it said. Right away I was suspicious. The last mail which started off that way was from my wife. This was followed by five months of celibacy, a three-year separation and, finally, divorce.
I am more comfortable with messages that say, “Friendly reminder: Summons process initiated for traffic fine …” This is not at all friendly. It’s a classic example of passive-aggressive behaviour and whoever is behind these well-mannered threats should expect a cease-and-desist letter from my lawyers. If there is any initiating to do, I will be the one to do it. I am a sensitive person and shan’t take this kind of abuse lying down, even though in my experience abuse is best enjoyed from a supine position.
The email continued. “As a member of Discovery Health Medical Scheme, you have complete peace of mind at every stage of your healthcare journey, knowing that your health is in good hands.”
There are a couple of things I need to clear up here. First of all, how long have I been on this journey and why don’t I remember packing or even leaving? Now I’m worried that I have passed the stage where I should have started worrying and haven’t realised it. I had a friend who was a member of Discovery Health who died of cancer not too long ago. He seemed not to have complete peace of mind for every stage of his journey. Perhaps his email was down.
I felt very relieved by your assurance, Discovery. Thank you for that. However, there are bits of my body that seem not to have got the memo. I have been receiving complaints from the hardworking detoxification department and one or two fairly important joints have raised objections. Is it possible that I am driving everything too hard in this healthcare journey of mine? Competitors in long-haul races like the Iditarod Trail whip their dogs to encourage them not to die before crossing the finish line. I treat my body the same way. It’s the only language it understands. Once you show weakness, it’s all over.
After scrutinising the email, I proceeded to instruct my brain to inform my liver and other highly stressed organs that there is no need for concern. I suppose there is a chance that one of them might send a message back saying, “It’s okay for you to have peace of mind because you’re the boss of us and just because you’re happy doesn’t mean we all are.” Quite frankly, this is something I wish to avoid. The moment the body develops a mind of its own, there’s no end to it.
“Excuse me, Mr Mind,” said Mr Foot via the internal server. “I seem to have a gouty toe and it’s fucking sore. I demand that you take us to the chemist for colchicine.”
“Dear Mr Foot,” replied Mr Mind. “Please inform Mr Toe we have recently been assured that our health is in good hands and there is no need to panic.”
In good hands. This is where things turn nasty. My hands, modest and unassuming – and yet quite proud at having been complimented on their dexterity beneath the sheets (complimented by people who aren’t me, mostly) – suddenly find themselves swamped by correspondence from the delicate squishy bits demanding some sort of guarantee from the grabby tools that they aren’t going to massively overdo things and spoil the fun for everyone. It is, after all, the hands that shovel all manner of filth into our gaping gobs. Without them, we’d be fine. Shoplifters in Saudia Arabia (post-sentencing) are among the healthiest people on the planet.
The email went on. “To get the most out of your chosen health plan, it is important that you understand exactly which benefits are available in 2019.” Being reminded that it was 2019 caused a minor cardiac event but I recovered quickly, eager to learn more about how I could get some bang for my R1700 a month buck.
I know this doesn’t sound like a lot of money to people with big families who are constantly getting sick or shot, but this is just me on my own. A boy standing in front of a medical aid asking it to not let him die because he can’t afford the Rolls Royce of covers.
I have a hospital plan. It’s pretty basic. No frills here, mate. Means exactly what it says. To claim, I have to be admitted to a hospital. And not just for a hangover, either.
I do want to get the most out of my chosen health plan. I really do. But this would mean losing a leg in a Great White shark attack and then being run over by a taxi while crawling to the nearest pub for a whisky to numb the pain. Even then, there’s probably something in the smallprint that deals with marine-based incidents.
“Unfortunately, Mr Trovato, you are covered for pyjama sharks only.”
I ignored the palpitations and clicked on the Understanding Your Benefits link. The images are of happy families glowing with health. They look like wealthy Mestizo models advertising a luxury housing estate in uptown Quito. They aren’t even in hospital. Wouldn’t pictures of normal fat people with tattooes posing in lightly soiled surgical gowns be more appropriate?
You might be terminally ill but, thanks to us, you have peace of mind and can now enjoy the final stage of your healthcare journey in this designated facility with three mediocre meals a day and a sullen nurse to scrub your giblets. Thanks, Discovery. It’s more than I get at home. I can hardly wait for the day I need surgery.