A Splitter of my Medical History …


My Tonsils Have to be Removed

I consciously remember more than 50 years of my life. Consequently, I also have a medical history. What I mean with this is the interactions between myself and doctors and hospitals, as well as the interference with my body by doctors.

Fortunately, the list of interferences of members of the medical profession on my body is short. I say fortunately, because the ratio between useful and detrimental medical procedures and treatment in my case is 1 : 2. And my best visits to doctors were those when the “Gods-in-White” said that “we could do something about this, but it is not absolutely necessary” – and then I was happy to avoid treatment.

Here is one of my less positive experiences. I only relate it here because once in a while, it is a good idea to do your own public outing.

During the winter of my last term at elementary school (1959/1960), I had a particularly serious cold. Mind you, this was not because I was physically a very weak child. In fact, it was more because I was always disobedient and ignored all the many good pieces of advice given me by the “adult world” around me. So when the weather turned frosty, I still refused to wear a woollen cap, regardless of what my parents had said. My parents used to say: “Those who don’t want to hear must feel!” or just: “you have only yourself to thank for it!”

So when I was nine years old, I was rather seriously ill for a considerable time after Christmas and had to see the doctor several times. Our general practitioner, Dr. Halbeck (I am not sure if I remember the name correctly) was a mild-mannered elderly gentleman who – in my perception – was actually quite aware of how difficult it is to deal with health, medicine, causes and the correct treatment.

Which is why he transferred me to the specialist, the perhaps most famous ENT (ear-nose-throat) expert in Augsburg, a Dr. Harlander. This is also a name I am not sure I remember correctly, which means I cannot say if this is actually his name. Just like I do not know if Dr. Halbeck received a “kick-back” from Dr. Harlander for the transfer …

We were welcomed warmly in the practice by Harlander. After all, we, as the family of a tenured civil servant, were privately insured. Dr. Harlander had an impressive practice in a huge villa, he was a very wealthy and important person in Augsburg. And in the Diakonissen-Haus (an extremely abominable hospital near Augsburg Central Station), he had an entire set of so-called in-patient beds.

And, medically spoken, Dr. Harlander was an absolute genius. He saw immediately what was wrong with me! The tonsils – they must be removed! – was his quick verdict. And he assured my parents that soon, when I was going to attend grammar school, I would be in considerably better health, which would drastically improve my chances of graduating from high school. My parents liked what they heard and consequently, they wanted him to remove my tonsils.

It so happened that Dr. Harlander’s in-patient beds in the Diakonissen-Haus were occupied for many weeks in advance. After all, Dr. Harlander was a very successful doctor and had his standards. And “no sweet without sweat”. Consequently, the good doctor did as many operations as his tools could master. And such a thing as an empty in-patient bed was not an option for Dr. Harlander.

And then came spring and I was healthy again. But alas, the in-patient bed was booked for me. Consequently, I had to make my appearance at the Diakonissenhaus although I was in perfect health and the sun shone brightly.

I do not very well remember the operation and its surrounding circumstances. But after the operation, I got to eat ice-cream every day. And my parents also brought a present to the hospital when they visited. In those days, Viking cars in HO scale were my true love. So I got three plastic cars in a sack, as a reward for having been so courageous.

The three toy cars looked rather cheap. Besides, they were not Viking cars. Instead, they were special bargains from one of the supermarkets which at the time sprouted all over the place. Very plump fakes with plenty of weaknesses if you looked at details. I was disappointed. And from that time on, I had to go through life without my tonsils. And ever since then, I also hate “fakes”.

To make up for it, I have been suffering from chronic neck throat aches to this day. The only times I feel really fit around the throat is when I spend a few days near the ocean. And as soon as I am back in high Munich or in air-conditioned surroundings (plane, ICE, modern building), my neck starts feeling bad.

Today, I read that it is not at all a good idea to have had your tonsils removed. Among other things, persons without tonsils have a statistically higher rate of suffering from throat cancer.

With our seven children, the occasional ENT specialist also advised to remove the tonsils. But we always declined. Today, they are all grown up, still have their tonsils and, at least as far as I know, enjoy excellent health….

(Translated by EG)


The picture shows the view from the hospital complex in Augsburg. It was taken from the angle of Riegele Brauwelt, which is right opposite of Augsburg Central Station.


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