There’s been quite a bit of death on the agenda recently; the sad and very untimely passing of my rock-star Uncle Jimmy, an acquaintance at my bi-annual lunch club and the anniversary of my Father’s death.
That got me thinking about the famous Marc Twain quote “There’s only two things certain in life, death and taxes.” Very clever Mr Twain, but what if you live in Dubai and don’t pay taxes? (Allegedly.) Does that mean that the only certain thing you’ve got in life is death? Not sure I like that concept.
Passing of a legend
Jimmy’s death, which was six weeks after he went to see his doctor with stomach pain, came as a huge shock given, 1. his age – mid 50’s, and 2. his indefatigable nature. This guy was running marathons and chucking himself out of perfectly serviceable aeroplanes mid-flight long before it became fashionable. He was the cool Uncle that actually made family get-togethers fun and something to look forward to.
In fact, such a shock was his passing that when Mrs H used it as the launch pad for her regular “you should go and get the annual health check you’re entitled to” speech, I actually booked it on the spot.
Take a deep breath
The process for booking the medical with Metlife was as farcical as you’d expect in this part of the world. Take a deep breath and… call Metlife, choose wrong option on IVR, speak to wrong person, who transfers you to the right person, though they don’t actually do anything except give you another number, which the first person could have done, and the number turns out to be a generic number, and they have to transfer you to the right branch and then the woman tries to put you through to a doctor for a reason you can’t work out, then you work out she thinks you’re buying insurance, which you’re not, and when you’ve told her you’re not (twice) she finally says “oh – you want the Metlife annual check-up?! I can help you with that” (Hurray!!) because a check-up, apparently, is totally different to a medical, though how are you supposed to know that and before you know it, and as easy and quick as you can say “There’s no place like Kansas.” your appointment is booked! Phew!!
Final comment from the receptionist; “Sir, fast for 10 – 12 hours, before you come ok?” me, “Fine.” “10 -12 hours sir, no eating, you need to fast.” “OK”. “So no eating sir.” “Er, yeah, ok. Think I’ve got it.”
This may feel like Groundhog day. Then again, it may feel like Groundhog day
So the morning of the medical arrived, and inevitably the first question at reception was …. “when was the last time you ate?” “10 -12 hours ago”. “Very good, please go and see my colleague.”
‘My colleague’ was a very brusque but highly efficient Indian nurse who, after asking if I’d fasted, told me to take off my shirt, lie on the bed and put my hands in my pockets. Okaaay. Seems that this is a pre-requisite for an ECG in these parts. Whether some chaps go for a cheeky feel when the nurse is leaning over to stick on the pads I’ll probably never know, but she looked in no mood to piss about, so deep into my pockets the hands went.
After the ECG, and with fewer chest hairs than I arrived with, I was sent for a cursory prod by the Doc and blood samples, Lab nurse – “Sir, have you fasted?” me, sighing, “Yes.” I was then told to go and get a good breakfast and come back in two hours. Breakfast as part of a medical – brilliant! No wonder people here are so fat.
Back after brekky, receptionist – “Sir, have you had breakfast?”, “Yes”, go and see my colleague who will take more blood. Lab nurse – “Have you had breakfast?” “Yes.” “Good. Roll up your other sleeve.”
I was then despatched from the med centre and told to await the results the next day…
You’ll live son
Med centre called the next day. (Anyone who tells you there isn’t some apprehension when you get that call is a downright liar.) ‘Put your hands in your pockets’ nurse tells me all is OK and I’m fit to continue fighting the good fight for middle aged expats in Dubai. Cool. Let’s book a brunch – quick.
And what did you learn?
· Not the most comprehensive medical I’ve had, but worth doing and I commit to doing it on a more regular basis. 150 Dhs with a complimentary chest wax is a bargain.
· Get an exit plan should the worst happen to you over here – getting money released here is a nightmare, even worse than changing your autopay credit card at Etisalat. Mrs H was given a full debrief of what to do in the event of my unfortunate and untimely demise. Basically, where our meagre money stash is hidden and how to cash-out. She will of course forget and I will have the repeat the briefing on a regular basis.
· Always, always, always fast for 10-12 hours before going for a medical.