It took just a little over three years for the heart condition that first laid him low to finally see off my friend Terry a couple of years ago. In that time though his vocabulary practically doubled. He’d never been a conversationalist, had never said much, and had got by, on the verbal communication front, for around fifty years, using fewer words than he’d find in the average edition of the Sun. His friends still miss him dearly.
First time I visited him in hospital though the change was clear. He peppered his speech with lists of prescription drugs, internal body parts, life-support technology, surgical techniques and intricate anatomical goings on to such an extent that I wondered, amazed, at his learning capacity – a talent heretofore hidden from not just me but from everyone who knew him. By the last time I saw him, a couple of days before he died, I was convinced that the only purpose of his heart attacks had been to extend his vocabulary. When he was gone, wider (and sadder) research led me to suspect that it wasn’t necessarily Terry’s heart attack that worked the magic, it was the NHS itself.
The POSIWID of health care is to extend its patients’ vocabularies. Those who survive bring back glowing reports. And reputations are enhanced.