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About ten years ago, I got very sick. When I get sick it's a hilarious comedy of errors, with a tidal wave of green slime and other mucus coming out of the sinuses. My chronic allergies play up when I'm ill. This illness in particular had me waking up in the morning and having to scrape dried snot off my tongue.

So, every morning I would wake up and start retching. Making my way to the bathroom sink - sometimes at speed - I would stand there coughing into it for twenty minutes, a gout of phlegm coming up, with large globules of blood all through it. I was coughing so much and so violently that one of my floating ribs ended up being pulled out of alignment. This was all getting ever so slightly alarming, so I went to a doctor.

"It's just a cold!" they said. By happy good fortune I started coughing again, as I'd been doing all day. I grabbed some tissues, and as I expected, coughed up a huge blob of blood.

"Do most people with colds do this?"

"You'll be fine!"

This kind of thing is why I loathe my country. I do mean country, because it's a national phenomenon. I've moved around a lot, and I was twenty eight before I found a doctor capable of noticing that I needed a deviated septum corrected and the inside of my nostrils cleared out of polyps (nothing is more revolting than imagining a coral reef forming in my nose). It was after I healed up and had the ridiculous amount of sutures removed that I could breathe for the first time through my right nostril.

As you can see, the general attitude here is one of "suck it up and deal with it". It's not helped by the fact that it's actually what people have to do: Our healthcare system is only really good for emergencies. It means people are happy to say it's perfectly normal to go without proper medical care. I think the only reason I got my deviated septum fixed so quickly was that not many people actually know that being unable to breathe properly is a problem, and try to get something done about it. Trying to get people to take my back problems seriously is proving to be difficult, though.

The so-called cold did not go away. It was a year or so later when, after seeing a few more useless doctors, I finally found one who started in horror and prescribed antibiotics, which fixed it right away (or as right away as a course of antibiotics can do). It was enough to make me cry, to think that I'd been coughing up the lining of my throat for a year and it was actually something that could be fixed.

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