IELTS Cue Card Sample 429 - Describe a health problem

IELTS Speaking Part 2: IELTS Cue Card/ Candidate Task Card.

Describe a health problem you or someone you know had.

You should say:

  • what it was
  • how you had this health problem
  • what you or this person had to do to get better

And discuss how you/ this person felt about this health problem.

Sample Answer:
Gosh, that seems like quite a personal topic!  I don’t think I feel quite comfortable talking about someone else’s health problem, so I’ll pick one that is about me.  Erm, I’ll tell you what it was, how I had it and how eventually I got better.  I’ll also try and explain a bit about how I felt, though that’s hard to do, so you might have to ask me some extra questions to help me make sense of it!

So what happened was post-concussion syndrome.  I had a fall from a horse, it wasn’t even that bad a fall, to be honest.  I’d had a riding lesson, and at the end I was sitting on the horse, standing there just chatting to my instructor, we weren’t even moving.  Then something happened on the yard, possibly a load fell off the back of a lorry, or something similar, which made the loudest noise imaginable, my horse was startled and plunged forward instinctively.  I was unprepared, so just toppled off backwards, hitting my head as I did so.  I always wear a hard hat, so that gave me some protection, but it was a hell of a bang.  In cartoons, you see pictures of people seeing stars after being hit on the head, and that is what it was like!  My vision went, and I saw a bright light, and my how it hurt!  However, I didn’t lose consciousness or anything, and I got back on the horse briefly to reassure myself I wouldn’t lose my nerve.  I put the horse away, untacking and brushing her off, and leaving her with a big pile of hay to eat (it wasn’t her fault, the ‘fright and flight’ reaction is pure instinct in a prey animal).  I drove home.  I didn’t feel great, and the next couple of days was the weekend so I didn’t go out, I just slept a lot, and felt a bit sorry for myself.

On the Monday, I went into work as usual but felt really peculiar.  It was the first time in a couple of days that I had seen anyone, and I found that it was really difficult to communicate.  I had gaps in my vocabulary, and I was really inappropriately emotional.  The phone on my desk rang, and I just couldn’t answer it, I felt I wouldn’t know what to say.  It was very frightening, I just sat and cried.  A colleague I worked with came in, and it was difficult for me to explain what was wrong as I honestly didn’t know.  She offered to give me a lift home, but I said I’d be OK to make my own way if she would let my boss know.  She knew I must be really poorly, as I’d been working there for over a year and had never before had a day off for anything or even been late to work.  I left the building and then felt quite panicky as I couldn’t remember how to get to the bus stop.  I knew this was bad, but I didn’t know what to do.  I managed to walk home and just went straight to bed.

The next week was awful, I just slept, and cried and felt really confused.  I knew I wouldn’t be well enough to go to work as I felt very fearful just going outside.  I made an appointment to see my doctor.  I was very lucky as the person I saw had by chance a particular interest in head injuries.  She explained that everything I was experiencing – the loss of memory, the emotional crying; the fatigue, was actually quite ‘normal’ for some people following an accident of this type.  That was the good news, the bad news is that this is known as a post-concussion syndrome and there isn’t much you can do to get better.  You just have to be patient. However she did say that I’d need to give myself some mental stimulation to help repair the pathways in my brain, so even though it was exhausting and frightening it was important to get out, to go for a walk, or get a cup of coffee.  To begin with, it was very difficult to do these things because I was scared I’d forget where I was and not be able to get home.  I also felt extremely vulnerable because I knew I looked ‘normal’ but might behave in an inappropriate way – like bursting into tears in a shop because they didn’t have the newspaper I wanted.  It’s very difficult to imagine what this is like unless you have experienced it.  You know you are behaving in a way that is odd, and not acceptable, but you simply cannot control it.  I also had a few experiences of meeting people who knew me, but I did not recognise, that was very hard to understand for them and me too!

I ended up having two weeks off work, and even when I did go back I struggled for quite some time.  It was many months before I felt my vocabulary was back and I felt like my thinking was laboured and I was exhausted all the time.

How did I feel?  Terrified, it was a really horrible experience, and I was very lonely too.  I thought I might not be able to carry on working, and that I would never get better.  I was also worried I would lose my friends because my behaviour was so unpredictable and peculiar.  Still, I try to be positive about these things, and I think it perhaps gave me some understanding and insight into what it must be like for older people with dementia or anyone with an acquired brain injury.  Perhaps it has made me more patient, and now if I see someone doing something odd in the street I consider that they may not mean to be demanding or rude, perhaps they too have had an injury which has changed how they interact with other people.  I feel very lucky that eventually, after about 18 months I am pretty much back to how I was.  I do still really struggle with the names though, and I still don’t always recognise people when I should.  Perhaps I also have that experience of reaching for a memory that isn’t quite there more than I ever did before, but it doesn’t stop me doing anything.

The human body is an amazing thing, it does have the capacity to heal, but you need to be patient to let it do so.  It is fragile too, and now I think I appreciate that more as well – it makes me mad if I see cyclists or riders without protective head gear – if I hadn’t been wearing my helmet, well, I think the ending would have been very different.

[ Written by - Lucy Marris:  Careers Adviser (UK), TEFL teacher (Vietnam) ]

If you can talk about this cue card, you should be able to answer the following cue card topics as well:

1. Describe a time when you were sick.
2. Talk about an illness you or one of your family members suffered from.
3. Describe a health problem you once had.

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