In the murky distant past I used to be a civil servant and when I reached the ripe old age of 35, I was invited to be a guinea pig in an experiment that the University College London was undertaking jointly with the Civil Service. They were doing research into amongst other things what causes strokes, heart attacks and diabetes, whether it can be predicted, whether there are genetic links, whether it is stress-related etc etc. They wanted to follow a group of 35-year-olds through their life and monitor them closely right into old age. I volunteered to become one of that group. It doesn't matter whether some of the people are no longer working in the Civil Service or are retired. The research follows them wherever they are. The study is now 20 years old and in that time I have had five top-to-toe medicals.
Today was the fifth one. I had to travel to the hinterland of Tottenham Court Road, the home of University College, and undergo a three and a half-hour medical. Apart from a 40-page questionnaire which I had to complete at home beforehand, I had to arrive today without eating or drinking anything since midnight last night. I can never start the day without breakfast, so by the time I got into Central London, I could have eaten a horse. The medical comprised:
- my blood pressure being taken (was told it was incredibly good at 116 over 66)
- seven blood samples (including tests for diabetes, cholesterol and any genetic factors) after which I was given 2 glasses of Lucozade to increase my glucose level
- a 30-minute written IQ test (mathematical and English tests, memory lists etc)
- electrocardiogram, heart rate and arterial elasticity tests
- weight/height/body measurements
- lung capacity test
- dementia test
- more blood tests (exactly two hours after the first set to see whether the Lucozade had been absorbed)
- balance/coordination/grip tests
- walking speed test
- an interview to see how much stress there has been in my life (I was able to tell them about barrow-loads !!)
Everyone gets something out of it. I get to have a total MOT, completely free of charge. I pay nothing at all and get a free lunch thrown in. A medical of this magnitude would cost a bomb if I had to go privately, so I am very appreciative that I was chosen to be included in the programme. I get the results in 10 weeks' time but already know from comments said today that I am now roadworthy again! They get something out of it because they are getting the answers for their research which will affect the way heart disease, strokes and diabetes are diagnosed and treated. I feel chuffed that I have done my bit for medical advancement.
When I emerged into the fresh air again, I marched off for an afternoon Christmas window-shopping in Oxford Street, content with the knowledge that, despite all the recent stress, my body is coping wonderfully well. At the very least I can be thankful for that.