Morbus Feivel

The city of Chelm once became the breeding ground for a strange epidemic, and this is how it happened. So many people in the city were falling ill that Doctor Feivel thought to himself how much quicker and easier it would be to stop examining the city’s residents to find out what illness they were suffering from, and instead to find out who had been infected by health and what kind of health it was.

He diagnosed healthy bones in a patient who had no broken legs, a healthy heart in another patient, a severe case of healthy skin in a third and so on. When Schlemihl came to see him, he diagnosed uninfl amed health of the gums. When Schlemihl asked him what he meant, the doctor – who had already started examining his next patient – muttered, “Morbus Feivel, advanced stage of severity.”

Schlemihl did not really understand what he meant, but did not wish to admit his ignorance and so did not query the diagnosis. When he arrived home and his wife asked him what the doctor had said, he answered curtly, “Infectious health.”

Schlemihl’s wife wondered how it could be possible that she and the children still had a cold when they lived in such close quarters with Schlemihl. When she asked Doctor Feivel, he explained, “It’s because of the incubation time. The proper symptoms only appear a few days after transmission of an infection of this kind.”

And by the next day Schlemihl’s wife and children were indeed feeling much better. “We’re suffering from infectious health,” they explained to their neighbours. “We caught it from Schlemihl.” The neighbours were also infected with health over the next few days, and soon Morbus Feivel had spread like wildfi re throughout the entire city. Before long the residents of surrounding villages came to infect themselves with Schlemihl’s epidemic, and eventually the entire country was infected with it – at any rate according to Schlemihl’s version of the story.

(Stefan Hammel, Handbook of Therapeutic Storytelling, p. 38-39)

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