It’s hardly revelatory to note that Covid19 changed life as we knew it. It rendered previously unfathomable concepts like hard state borders, lockdowns, curfews and home school, the norm.
One thing the pandemic didn’t – and hasn’t – changed, however, is the existence of other health issues. While we collectively scrambled to come to terms with an unfolding crisis triggered by a new highly infectious virus, the old and familiar illnesses didn’t abate. What did abate, however, was the number of Australians who sought medical treatment and assistance.
Presentations to hospital emergency departments in metropolitan areas were down as much as 25% in the early months of COVID19. A similar pattern occurred overseas and it’s not hard to understand why. But health professionals and authorities say it’s concerning because any delay in seeking appropriate medical attention, particularly for anyone with time‐sensitive, potentially life‐threatening conditions, even in the midst of a pandemic, is deeply troubling.
Personally, as a haver of chronic illness, I can relate in a few ways. One of my conditions flared in the middle of Australia’s first lock down and it wasn’t something I could ignore because the symptoms were obvious. It was a blessing and a curse: a curse because pain triggered by furiously-inflamed tissue in a major joint is miserable but a blessing because the pain indicated – beyond any doubt – that my illness needed attention. Mercifully, after seeking the medical attention I clearly needed, after a few months medication resolved the problem.
That my body might be harbouring another live condition during that same period didn’t cross my mind. It turned out however the body is a marvel in the realm of multi-tasking and while I was focused on the bigger illness at hand, an invisible – and symptom-less – condition was emerging.
When Covid19 first hit I postponed an unpleasant but necessary annual procedure on account of wanting to avoid being in a hospital even just for a day. I’m on immunosuppressant medication which meant I was conscious of being more vulnerable to Covid19. Paradoxically, coronavirus wasn’t the only issue I needed to be wary of. The procedure I had put off by three months revealed a more insidious problem: detection was early enough that it wasn’t a disaster. But it could have been. It was disconcerting and requires close monitoring but it could have been so much worse. Complacency, even for just a few months and even with an arguably legitimate basis, could have come cost me dearly.
I discussed it with one of my specialists late last year who observed the cruel reality that illness isn’t a zero-sum game. Having one condition does not necessarily make a person less likely to develop another.
The moral of this story is an instruction: to book the appointment you might be putting off. Let’s be honest, even before Covid19 turned the world upside down it was a bit tempting to avoid the various health check ups we need. Pap smears, mammograms, skin checks, blood tests and other screening exercises aren’t fun but they are absolutely necessary. Covid19 hasn’t changed the likelihood of developing other illnesses and ailments so make 2021 the year to get checked.