d i a g n o s t i c s

19:54 tuesday 11 april – laura place , melbourne , australia

finally , after several false starts , i’m leaving australia . in four hours i shall board a flight for kuala lumpur , connecting with another to kuantan on the east coast . from there i shall travel north up the coast until i find a quiet village with a nice beach where i can spend a little while reflecting on the past six weeks in australia and looking ahead to a month in britain and the coming adventures in ghana . generally getting my thoughts together really . i aim to get back to britain in time for granny’s birthday on the nineteenth .

it was confirmed this morning that i fractured my right heel in my daredevil fence-top leap . it’s a week since i decided to speak to a doctor about the non-diminishing pain in my foot . the gp prodded at it and sent me for an x-ray .

the hospital to which i was sent was very quiet , very clean , earily empty . you could actually hear the air conditioning . despite the fact i had no appointment i was in and out within half an hour . the film came back with a brief analysis from the radiologist suggesting that the pain was nothing to do with my fence experiences but was in fact due to a tiny spur of bone growing on the base of my heel .

$80

yeah , right .

the gp shrugged her shoulders , prodded my foot a bit more , and said she didn’t know what to do . i could go to an orthopedic consultant if i liked but they were a strange lot , tended to be rather abrupt , too much time looking at bones . she didn’t know any , and gave the impression this was through choice more than chance . when i said that yes , i would quite like to see a consultant , she shrugged and pulled out a phone directory . started scanning her finger down the columns . maybe a female one would be friendlier . and one in a convenient neighbourhood . bingo ! a name was scribbled on a scrap of paper with an address and a phone number .

$120

i smiled , paid the bill and left , my faith in the australian medical profession somewhat diminished . with no intention of calling upon the gp’s random consultant i began to ask everyone i met if they could recommend someone . in the end it was charles young who came up trumps . during a meeting on thursday he called his father , a doctor , and within minutes he’d lined up an appointment the following morning with mr henry bryce . charles had some childhood memory of pushing this fellow’s rolls royce , which sounded encouraging so long as the medical insurance held good .

arriving at mr bryce’s consulting rooms i found them a little less grand than the harley street style leather and potted palms i’d imagined . in fact they were slightly seedy . a scarcely-converted office suite at the top of a tower in the centre of town , with concrete-blasted ceiling , flourescent lights , flimsy partition walls which actually seemed to amplify sound , colourful magazines on thin paper from a year or more ago and people in the waiting area who looked like they were having a bad time of it .

but mr bryce himself was splendid . businesslike and convincing with a very occasional deep wry chuckle . he seemed to have two patients on the go at any point , like an expert cook or a successful polygamist . somehow when he prodded my foot it felt more useful than when the gp did it . he held my x-ray up to the window in a professional kind of way , screwed up his eyes , hrrumphed and bade me look closer . he traced out a line which i could not for the life of me see . could be a fracture , he said . the radiologist’s verdict had been dismissed with a contemptuous grunt .

to be certain i’d need to have a bone scan . more phone calls . i’d have to be there in half an hour . flurry of taxi-hailing and route-finding . another expensively quiet hospital . seriously expensive machines with science fiction names . machines which filled entire rooms , entire floors . and not a hint of taxpayers’ money .

they injected me with something radioactive and stuck me on a trolley . they angled a big metal dish over my foot and i could see my blood sparkling on a screen . when my right foot went under it sparkled a lot more than my left foot .

$350

i returned to mr bryce this morning for his verdict . yes , there is a fracture . no , there’s no time to put a plaster on . yes , i can carry on to malaysia so long as i’m careful and i use crutches .

$150

so i’ve got some crutches , which i aim to exploit for every bit of sympathy i can wring from my surroundings . particularly if i can get an upgrade on my flights . the woman i dealt with at the chemist where they came from dropped them off about an hour ago . amazingly kind .

$20 ( including free delivery )

my faith in the profession is much better now .

i’ve got loads of digital photos from the last six weeks which i intended to stick together before leaving . but heck , i haven’t got round to it .

in about half an hour my thai friend pum will arrive to take me to the airport . we spent a great weekend exploring daylesford and the hills , and area which seems to be filled with rather smart , commercially-astute hippies .

for the next week i shall be disconnected , off-line , 100% tangible . then the mayhem begins again .

: cH

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