The French Way – Diagnosis, Treatment …

Posted on October 26, 2018. Filed under: Pakistan, The French Contribution |

THE FRENCH WAY by Rear Admiral Mian Zahir Shah (Retd)  PAK Navy …

Like the uniform, parades are a part and parcel of military life. There are daily parades, passing out parades, ceremonial parades, and even blanket parades. There is also a little parade in the morning in every military unit, which is called the sick parade.

 The sick parade is one parade that is never a favourite with the Command, for the men on this parade are invariably not going to be available for work for that day.

There is always a certain percentage of the ship’s company on sick parade. Some are the genuinely sick, while others are pretenders trying to get away from some unpleasant work. They are called malingerers, and malingering is a punishable offense.

While a complaint of stomach-ache or headache is a favourite ploy, good malingering requires talent and some even take it to the level of a fine art. 

When we went to France for manning a submarine, it came as no surprise – as soon as the men had got their bearings in that new country – to see a sizeable sick parade shuffle along to try their hand with the French Medical Officer in the submarine base.

After an hour or so the sick parade returned in a very subdued manner. Stranger still, they were most uncommunicative about their treatment and about the medicines they had received.

Next morning the sick parade was much smaller. On the third day the sick parade were zero and miraculously remained like that – except for the really genuine cases – for the rest of their stay in France.

The command was pleasantly surprised with this miracle and was most curious to know how it had happened. Soon it was discovered that the reason for it all was the French medical practice.

In Pakistan we follow the British medical system and have become quite comfortable with it. We gulp down pills that are sugar coated, open up our mouths to take the thermometer, and roll up our sleeves to take injections.

 The French doctors on the other hand, ask you to take your pants down for almost anything. 

Injections are given on fleshy buttocks, temperature is taken anally with a comparatively monstrous thermometer, and tablets, or suppositories, also administered anally, are equally oversized and need no sugar coating for where they are going. 

 The suppositories were promptly nicknamed ‘torpedoes&#39’ by the submarine sailors, and the process of taking them was called ‘loading stern tubes’.

It was, in fact, a bewildering experience for an unsuspecting Pakistani – even civilian – to go to a doctor in France for the first time.

Even if his complaint was a simple, innocent ailment like a sore throat, he was bound to find himself set upon by white-gowned people, all speaking an incomprehensible language, who would straight away subject him to a series of the most unmentionable indignities.

Furthermore, the doctor also insisted that the first of the suppositories be taken by the patient right there and then, s’il vous plait, to see that he gets it right. This was culture shock at its worst!

The stay in France was not a short one, so the sailors learnt to live with their ailments stoically, manfully enduring discomfort and pain than bruise their sensitive egos.

And when writing back home, medicines started taking priority over spices in the lists of items that near and dear ones were asked to send to them in France.

It was a happy day for everyone when the submarine eventually arrived in Pakistan.

But along with the general happiness, one long dormant and practically forgotten headache of the command slowly raised its ugly head once more. With the gradual replacement of the French medicines by local ones, the sick parades returned STRONG!

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2 Responses to “The French Way – Diagnosis, Treatment …”

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