I loved listening to stories and my father, ritualistically, used to tell me a story before I fell asleep when I was younger. Most of the stories rooted onto my young mind, some forming surreal dreams. Strangely, the stories had such a sub-conscious effect on me that real happenings in my life often seemed like the echo of a forgotten dream. The reason was that my father’s stories were mostly created by him, sometimes molding his experiences into a story or observing others keenly and stringing together tales.
My father also liked to read up about history and sometimes told me about the ways of the old world. He mentioned how very different life was and how even diseases were treated differently. This was very strange to me as I always considered diseases to be something that went away when you took a pill. Apparently, there were no such drugs before. There came a night when I heard the story of a King. Here it is:
Once upon a time, there lived a King who had the wealth of several nations put together. In the beginning, he was fair, generous and had a good heart. His people loved him and showered him with gifts, but he soon became greedy and began demanding more gifts (I’m guessing taxes). He loved food and wine and made his cooks make him large banquets everyday. He ate a lot of rich food, buttery chicken, fattened foie gras creamy desserts and expensive wines. His gluttony increased with time and one day he stopped going to court. He decided to stay in his room and have his food delivered to him. He became the laziest King ever known. He wanted so much food that his subjects began to starve.
The people held a meeting and decided to go to a wise man in the mountains. The wise man listened to their troubles and said, “Do not distress thine minds. I will send my messengers to His Highness and He shalt be taught a lesson.”. His messengers, the nymphs, crept into the palace with the winds and entered the King’s bed chamber. They found him lying on a plush bed and biting into a huge turkey. They were revolted by the sight, but stayed on. In the night, when the King had fallen asleep, they slipped onto the Royal bed and sunk their teeth and claws into his big toe and his knuckles. The King cried out in pain, but the nymphs, being invisible to everyone but the wise man, did not let go. The pain carried into the day and the King promised a reward for anyone who could rid him of the pain. No one came forward and finally the King begged his ministers to kill him. His subjects, though, kind hearted as they were and remembering their good King, sent for the wise man.
The wise man visited the King and promised him relief if he mended his ways. The King promised this and the nymphs let go of him. The King realized his slovenly ways, became good again and everyone lived happily ever after.
This story had such an effect on me that, after a few days, we when we visited a sick friend of my dad’s a few days later and found him in bed with a swollen toe (he also happened to be very fat), I cried out, “Look! The King from your story!”. My dad quickly distracted me with a candy bar (ironically enough) and led me away.
Later on in life, I found that the man had had Gout, a form of arthritis that is formed by the build up of uric acid in the body. When the waste is not properly removed from the body by the kidneys and purines build up, the uric acid crystallizes in joints and leads to a lot of pain. I also found that it used to be actually called the “King’s disease” or the “Rich man’s disease”! This was because, in the olden days, it was only rich people who suffered from this as they ate a lot of rich and fatty food, while the common man had a more humble meal. The unhealthy food can cause excess uric acid, leading to hyperurecemia and eventually, gout. Being over-weight and eating food that are rich in purine can lead to this. Alcoholics, older people, obese people and men have more chances of getting the disease.
Symptoms & Causes Of Gout
I have been careful to avoid gluttony and keep myself well exercised in order to escape many diseases that my father mentioned. Gout has been the most scary one, though. I found that it did have cures which even started working within 24 hours of taking them.
The most common symptoms of Gout are swelling, redness and sharp pain in the big toe, just like the king had had. I realized that the nymphs were actually an attack of gout and the wise man decidedly took the credit. In the present day, everyone has access to food that are high in unhealthy fat and thus, more people are affected by gout, making the disease no longer an arthritis of the rich.