Trip to the charite in Berlin, part 3

Dr Hanitsch must have heard me speaking English to my wife, because he greeting me in English and that remained the language of our whole meeting, which suited me fine because it’s the language I express myself best in. He ushered me into his office and my wife disappeared for some well-earned sightseeing in Berlin, as arranged.

He was a young chap, younger than me anyway. His manner was pleasant and friendly, at the same time serious and professional. He got off to a good start by glancing down at the new red file my photocopies had been sorted into, and noticing from the sticker that I had turned 50 last week, so he wished me a belated happy birthday.

If I might be permitted a small aside, my birthday a week ago went a lot better than I had dreaded. I kept it to a small select gathering that I had a hope of surviving, rather than a larger event that would have included inviting my family to fly in from England and France. Basically I didn’t want to run the very real risk of people spending money on a plane ticket and taking time out just to watch me stumbling around with a headache for a couple of days trying to pretend everything was fine and I was enjoying it. So instead we just invited 4 couples who live locally to come round for a casual lunch in the garden.

At around 3 pm I passed my son in the kitchen, who said “where are you going?” “To have a lie down” I replied. “What, in the middle of your birthday party?” And I did. When I got up again my guests were all still there, so I sat with them until 5 pm and then sent them all home. It was a very pleasant day, I enjoyed it so much that I have decided to celebrate my birthday more often in future.

But anyway, back to the plot. The first thing I noticed about Dr Hanitsch was that his interview technique was excellent, and he had obviously planned a structure for our meeting. He started by saying “Why don’t you just tell me about it?”

I described the sudden onset, my current main symptoms (exhaustion, headaches, brain fog, noise intolerance, dull pain in kidney area) told him how over the last 2.5 years my activity tolerance has diminished and listed the things I don’t do any more. Also how I currently manage and try to ward off symptoms with disciplined pacing, and that I record my daily activity, so I know my activity level has diminished because a year ago my records show I was able to work fairly symptom-free for 20-25 hours a week. Now it’s down to 10-15 hours a week, and in the last few months I have cancelled what little remained of my social life, hobbies and voluntary work. I currently lose 10 days per month to headaches and tiredness, and spend every evening at home on the sofa. As I told him this his face adopted a suitable empathetic and concerned expression, which surprised me to be honest, because I assumed he would be used to hearing similar stories and much worse.

He said he was very pleased with my account of how I’ve been pacing, because that is exactly what they recommend to their patients. Apparently most patients have tried everything, and start the appointment by talking about everything they’ve tried. (The only thing I’ve ever tried was NO2 Black for a couple of days, which I kept quiet about).

He let me talk at length, while he listened and typed everything into his computer. He didn’t interrupt, try to tell me anything, make assumptions or jump to any conclusions. If anything was unclear, he asked for more detail or clarification. He asked whether I was more susceptible to infections, what brought on my symptoms, and whether I’d had my head examined (he didn’t phrase it quite like that) apart from the three MRT scans and visit to the neurologist. This impressed me because it showed that in the 20 minutes between me handing in my photocopies and our appointment, he’d read and familiarised himself with my file.

So basically he let me talk and asked me questions until he’d got a clear picture of my condition. Then, he spoke …


Wow, you have definitely mastered the cliffhanger. Do we have to guess what he said, and the closest one to it wins a prize?

Let me go first: ´you have a psychosomatic disorder known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome...psyche!´
Nope, that's not what he said! Sorry about the cliffhangers, but it's too big to do all in one go so I have to do it in bits. Next one might be in a day or two ...

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