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   These days, it seems, when you fall ill... (February 19, 1996)

These days, it seems, when you fall ill you don't have malaria or typhoid or headache or laryngitis, you pick up a virus.

So, now that I am well, I went to my doctor and said: "Doctor, thanks for putting me back on my feet, but you never told me what was wrong with me?"

The doctor smiled and said: "You had picked up a virus."

"What virus?" I asked.

"There are millions of viruses," the doctor said. "If I tell you about all of them, you will be ready for a Ph. D. in medicine."

"Just tell me about my virus," I said. "I am sorry for taking up your time, but I would like to know."

"Oh, but you should know. Every patient should know what is wrong with him and it is his doctor's duty to keep him informed," the doctor said.


"So, what!" the doctor said.

"You haven't told me what was wrong with me."

"But I told you, you picked up a virus," the doctor said. "Not unusual, there are a lot of viruses floating around. If you look in my waiting room, you will find more than half the patients there have picked up a virus."

"Yes, yes, but what is my virus?" I said.

"You don't want me to give you the chemical formula for it," the doctor said. "To the lay mind it would mean nothing. Just understand that you had picked up a virus and now, through careful and controlled administration of anti-biotics, your doctor has suceeded in removing it."

"I am grateful to you for that," I said. "But I would still like to know what virus it was. Was it an influenza virus or a malaria virus or what?"

"Where are you living!" the doctor exclaimed. "Influenza and malaria have been brought under control and exterminated from this world by medical science and research a half-century ago."

"I am glad to hear that," I said. "Then what is this new virus that I and half the patients in your waiting room are suffering from. Is it AIDS!"

"It is not AIDS," the doctor said. "If you had AIDS, your doctor is here to look after it, be assured. Just give him a shout and he will be there with you. What you had was a virus, which led to viral fever. If the fever has reached the brain, it would have been difficult, but we acted in time."

"Then I had fever," I said. "Why didn't you tell me in the first instace. I know what a fever is."

"You did not have fever," the doctor said. "Those are home ailments, you take two aspros and go to bed, doctors don't treat you for that any more. You had picked up a virus, I already told you that."

"Yes," I said, "But I wish you could be more definite about my illness. It sounds so elitist telling people I picked up a virus."

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