Many people believe in coincidences, but I’m not so sure. There have been a number of occasions in my life when situations have surprised me enough to question whether they could just be passed off as coincidental.
This is one of them. It happened in Melbourne about five years ago on a Spring night.
A school friend of mine who I will refer to as DJ, and who has been an anaesthetist of distinction for decades, had just completed his examination to gain Australian credentials. It was the night of his graduation and Gaynor and I were invited as his special guests. The reason was that he had no family or friends in Melbourne and was a citizen of South Africa. We had recently reunited after not seeing each other since high school days. That was a long time ago and we had spent many hours in the previous months reminiscing about our rugby and athletics adventures as school boys.
This event took place in a hotel function room and because he was a Doctor requalifying, plus the fact that he was the oldest graduate by more than twenty years, his name came up towards the end of the proceedings.
Dressed in his academic gown and holding his newly presented certificate, DJ was congratulated by most of the other graduates. Every one of them added a phrase to the effect that they were amazed that at his age he had bothered to re-graduate, considering that he was allowed to practice as an Anaesthetist anyway.
The last graduate to congratulate DJ was a man of about forty years old with a Kiwi accent. He said he worked at the public hospital in Canberra, he was married with young children, and we discovered his name was Ed.
Once the hand-shaking was over, Ed asked what we were doing after the ceremony. DJ’s reply was that he was taking Gaynor and me out to dinner to celebrate.
Ed decided to tag along. He was never officially invited, but that did not deter him.
We ended up in a restaurant nearby eating freshly made dumplings and having an animated discussion about medicine and the progress being made in medical science. Half way through the meal it registered with Ed that I was not using chopsticks and was facing some difficulty with getting the dumplings into my mouth.
“So, what is causing you this loss of function Graham?” he asked me.
“He’s got Motor Neuron Disease” said DJ. “Unfortunately for him but fortunately for me, because I used Graham as part of my study for the exams.”
This set off a new stream of conversation that left Gaynor and me floundering. Between Ed and DJ they discussed everything they knew about neurons, nervous systems, synapses and how these all function. But it was at a level that was not suited to the lay person.
With Ed driving the debate we travelled mentally with him and a collection of scientist, physicists and chemist to conferences in the US, UK and various other parts of the world. We heard about medical procedures that we’d never heard of before and discoveries by researchers that left me encouraged, even though I had no idea what these two doctors were actually talking about.
It was at this point that Ed got personal with me.
“They say there is no cure”.
That was a rhetorical question because he shook his head vigorously as if to emphasise that medical science had not solved the issue of MND. While Ed shook his head I nodded as if to say “I know”. Then Ed turned to DJ and asked him a few questions that, by the look on his face, stretched DJ’s knowledge on the topic.
“When you’re treating a patient with damaged neural pathways, what would you prescribe as a supplement to boost the immune system, DJ?”
“Well, I’d certainly prescribe ….”
“Megadoses of Vitamin C.”
Ed then went into some detail about why he thought this was a good idea. He then got out his smartphone, rapidly keyed in keywords, and started to read out various medical and chemical details that again meant nothing to Gaynor or me. He quoted various research results confirming the validity of this dosage, then he went even deeper into the realms of biomedics, cell structures and gene strings.
Because these meant nothing to me at the time, I have no recollection to explain this account, but DJ kept nodding and affirming what Ed was saying. I can imagine that the nods may have been an agreement with the thinking, but they may also have been just an acknowledgement that Ed was impressive.
This last segment of the conversation ended up with Ed suggesting that for another part of what MND may be caused by or result in, he would prescribe megadoses of Vitamin E. The two doctors confirmed that, in their view these two megadose components could have no short term downside, so it was perfectly safe to try them.
Looking me in the eye, Ed said “If I had MND that’s what I would be doing, and that’s what I would recommend if you were my patient, Graham. Yep, that’s what I would recommend.”
The end of this conversation was also the end of the meal and the evening. DJ paid ,with no suggestion from Ed that he would contribute for his part.
We walked out of the restaurant and stood outside the door. It had been an intriguing evening and the conversation about my health had been thought provoking. What was most fascinating was that Ed said he was going off to find some action in Chapel Street. We all shook hands and wished each other well. DJ, Gaynor and I went to the car to go home and it was then I asked the question that had been niggling away for over an hour.
“DJ, do you know ED?’’
The answer was the first of a number of surprises that lay in store.
“I’ve never seen him before,” said DJ, shrugging his shoulders.
“That’s surprising! He seemed to be very familiar with you.”
“Never met him before.”
We dropped DJ at his hotel and went home. The next day came the second surprise regarding Ed – the 40 year old Kiwi who worked at Canberra Hospital and had a wife and young children.
My phone rang. It was DJ. His voice had a tone of excitement.
“You remember Ed? well I’ve just looked at the Graduation List from last night, and there is no Ed on the list. Not only that, but there’s no doctor from Canberra on it.”
You can imagine the thoughts that went through my head. “Who was Ed?’’ was the primary question. “And where did he come from?”
In five years, there has never been an answer to either of those questions, but since that time I have megadosed on Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
In December 2018 I ticked over nine years since being diagnosed with MND, which makes me well over the average survival.
You can, of course draw your own conclusions, but I have had time to reflect on that night and that man. Eddy the Eagle was a phenomenon of the 1990’s, but Ed the Angel is a more recent icon in my life.
Disclaimer: Do not follow Ed’s advice without first consulting your own Resident Angel.