Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Just the present for Christmas: a test showing you could be dying!

Now that almost all my bills are paid by direct debit, hearing the post arrive isn’t the horror picture it used to be. Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, there’s a ‘new kid on the block’ when it comes to scary mail. And I’m not referring to those countless, unsolicited letters that arrive on a weekly basis from Virgin Media, asking me to sign up. No, it’s worse.

This week I woke up to find a new, rather more disturbing interloper on the ‘welcome’ mat (I exaggerate there for dramatic effect. My post doesn’t actually arrive until nearly three in the afternoon and even though I’m not a dawn-chorus kind of a gal, even I am usually up and about before that).

Anyway, my post arrived and when I bent to pick it up, I got quite a shock. In fact, I nearly had a heart attack. Which is ironic, considering the fact that the leaflet that caused this reaction was from a laboratory offering to test me to see whether or not I’m likely to have a heart attack. Or whether or not I am diabetic without knowing it, or have kidney problems, or a dodgy liver or something wrong with my blood or my urine.

In short — and it was rather abrupt and to the point — the leaflet was offering me testing for a wide range of potentially fatal medical problems I’d never thought about.

Apparently 10,000 people here don’t know they have diabetes (You Could Be Blind Before You Find Out!) and nine people a day die from a heart attack here (Check your heart out today, before it checks out on you!)

The leaflet even has photos to push the warnings home — a young woman with dark glasses and a white stick (quite pretty and walking in a sunny woodland) and a man clutching his shirt collar and screaming (good teeth and a bit of a beard).

Presumably, she’s blind and he’s having a heart attack, although it could be that she’s walking in the sun and he’s shouting out loud because his shirt’s scratching his chest. Closer examination reveals a load of scary facts about bad health and the need to diagnose things early.

Those clever marketing people at the laboratory. Obviously they’re tapping into our society’s recesssion-fuelled sense of fear. “Uncertain about work, the future, your grasp of the Eurozone Crisis? Don’t worry! Here’s something you can control! (Up to a point anyway).”

What’s next in the Worst Case Scenarios leaflet range? A picture of a woman clutching her throat in front of an open fridge with the headline, “You Might Run Out of Milk On The Night You Fancy A Hot Chocolate!” or a photo of a red-faced executive at his desk above the warning “You Might Forget To Flush the Toilet Twice, And You Know How Sometimes Once Isn’t Enough?”

However, just when you think it’s all doom and gloom, there’s a cheery, seasonal note on the lab testing leaflet. Seemingly, gift vouchers are available and they make ideal Christmas presents!

Great! That’s this year’s sorted then. Mammy — heart. Sister — bowel health. Brother — a wee lung function. Best friend — well, it has to be a full blood picture, doesn’t it?

Happy Christmas ... if you get that far!

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