It was Dr Pieta who is thought to have made the first recorded observation. He noted in his medical journal on January 23rd 1990 the following:
Patient Jimmy Manx, male, aged 15, presented with recurring nosebleeds. Temp and Bp normal. No evidence of physical trauma or inflammation. Interactions with medications: nil, Medical history incl use of drug and alcohol revealed no causal link. Adv to treat locally with ice packs and to maintain a diet of soft, cool food and beverages.
Rosetown is place no different from any other, remarkable only for its tendency to be supremely average in all aspects, but during the late ’90s its fame began to swell as stories started to circulate that the town had a problem. Or to be more precise, that the men of Rosetown had a problem.
Naturally, the school was the first place that came under suspicion. When a number of young men begin to suffer from nosebleeds on a regular basis for no apparent reason, people need to be able to assign blame.
Mr Jones, the school Principal vigorously defended his school and the teachers employed there.
‘I can not emphasize enough,’ he wrote to the worried parents of the boys, ‘not only how seriously we are taking this matter, but also how strenuously I stand by my staff during this time. Mr Pipkin in particular, is a games master of the highest calibre and I can assure all parents that this outbreak is in no way the result of an over zealous physical education curriculum.’
‘Contact sport,’ he added, ‘has been played at this school since the last century and has resulted in nothing but fine upstanding men passing through our doors at the peak of their physical fitness.’
‘Nevertheless, these occurrences are being fully investigated and we are working with the local council to discover the cause, if indeed, it lies within the boundaries of these walls. Meanwhile, we will continue to educate and to stimulate the fine minds of our youth.’
But despite the investigations, no cause was discovered at the school. In the local shop the women gathered to discuss the problem.
‘I do not know how much longer the boys can take it,’ confided one mother, ‘it is sapping their energy, it is sapping their confidence.’
‘You are right,’ agreed another, ‘this whole thing is getting out of control. A young man needs his strength and this must be affecting their health.’
‘Well it is not the school,’ said Mrs Samuels. ‘My husband’s cousin is on the inspection team and they have found nothing.’
‘Where did they look?’ Asked Mrs Brody. As the owner of the shop, she felt it incumbent upon herself to remain informed.
‘Everywhere,’ came the reply, ‘water system, lawns and gardens and they checked through all the cleaning chemicals too. They haven’t changed a thing up there.’
‘What about that Mr Pipkin?’ said Sally Yates. There was a brief and awkward silence.
‘I mean, how is the poor man?’ she added, ‘it must be a terrible strain. Is he coping OK, Mrs Pipkin?’
Mrs Pipkin shot her a look.
‘He is doing just fine, thank you Sally. Working hard as always. And how is your Fred? Has he managed to find himself a job yet?’
A month after the initial case, the town was no closer to finding the answer to the nosebleeds, and what is more, the situation had appeared to be spreading.
Sitting in his office, the Mayor looked down the High Street. People were coming and going, doing their daily business but it seemed to him as if a light weariness had descended on the town
‘I have another letter of complaint here, sir,’ said Mrs Clarke.
‘What does this one say?’ He asked.
‘Well it is from a Mrs Henry. She is complaining that since her husband retired the only time she gets the house back to herself is when he goes up to the Men’s Community Shed program to do his woodworking, but they sent him home last week because he got a nosebleed.’
‘Oh dear,’ said the Mayor.
‘She says that she was watching her cookery program when he just came right back in through the door and turned the channel over to televised sport.’
‘Put it in the pile with the others, Mrs Clarke,’ said the Mayor.
‘Yes, Sir,’ said Mrs Clarke and then added, ‘Mr Mayor, you may just want to use one of these, Sir.’
The Mayor looked at his secretary. She was holding out a box of tissues.
TO BE CONTINUED …