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A Doctor’s Note

Oct 31

Posted by: ACHA
10/31/2011 1:07 PM  RssIcon

By Paul Willgoss

The three little words in the title are almost designed to irritate and annoy…


As a school child, a doctor’s note was needed to “prove” my heart condition was such that I couldn’t play sports. I then needed another one when the advice changed and I was allowed to.

As an adult, I needed a medical exam with a note from my doctor to join the civil service.

As a half marathoner, I needed a doctor’s note to join the gym.

As a multiple marathoner, and someone whose forgotten how many half marathons I’ve done (more a sign of the loss of brain cells than a boast), I need a doctor’s note to get the gym manager to work with me to design a workout plan for the next set of adventures.

Now, I know and can rationalise that this is about insurance, and I guess it’s even worse in the States than in the U.K., but it gets my goat (translation: irritates me to hell and back).

When something irritates me this much I try and work out why, so I can either find a balm or lance the boil.

Thus, my analysis:

I live with my heart condition (and my diabetes); I don’t let them control me.

Being reminded regularly that someone else has a measure of control over my participation in activities I love is not something an adult should like; basically, I don’t like being told what I can and can’t do.

I’m fitter now than at any time in my life, climbing and running better than ever. I could do with being the same weight as I was 25 years ago, but I’ll work on that! So why do I need checks that someone who could be starting exercise for the first time doesn’t?

All of which is my grump, and I know how to deal with it—the best way—by signing up for another event, getting the doctor’s note and working my arse off to do what I want to do.

So I’ve signed up for an ultramarathon, a short one of 50 km (31 miles). I’ll send the note to the gym tomorrow and set up the meeting to discuss my fitness requirements.

It would be easy to give in and say the irritations are too many to carry on with, to go back to gently jogging around the park of a lunch time, but while I can do what I do, I will do what I can.

And as the doctor’s note says, there is no reason why I can’t—which isn’t a bad place to end.

Marathon runner, GUCH (Grown Up with Congenital Heart Disease), long-distance hiker, charity trustee, patient advocate and whisky lover—Paul Willgoss is all of these and more. A member of the Most Honourable Order of the British Empire, his efforts both in front and behind the scenes for those with congenital heart defects have been recognized at the highest levels in his native U.K.

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