Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kill or Cure

First a minor update. The good news is my teeth are fixed and I now have a beautiful smile. Strong, and – ‘secure teeth’ as well, now that I have the talent for keeping them in place. The other good news – I won’t need to see a Dentist again as long as I live.

Now, here we need to digress, cause there is more to this story.

I have long been aware that for some puzzling questions, there is no one to ask so you just have to figure it out for yourself. The puzzler for me, is why doctors offer medications for minor conditions that have side-effects that are as lethal as a ‘gas chamber’. Now, I have finally figured it out but must go to a bit of my own history for you to understand how I rationalized my conclusion.

As a child, medical practice in our household stalled at homemade chicken soup, a stay in bed, a warm sponge bath, and a cool cloth on the forehead. And for extreme situations, a goose-grease chest-rub, a drink of honey-lemon tea, or the utility of a warm mustard plaster. Aside from that, no pills, no bottled elixirs, no infusions by needle or any other way.

In the first 16 years of my life, I was in hospital for a few days when I was 4 or 5 years old with double pneumonia. And then when I was 16 I was hospitalized for tonsillitis because it was extreme enough the Doctor expected he might have do a tracheotomy so that I could continue to breath. And yes, for each of these hospital stays I was given antibiotics by pill or injection. But that was the extent of what I was given for medications in my youth.

Since then I have taken no more medications than I can count on two hands, and no more aspirins than I can count on ten digits as well. This is not to tell you that I am in big wondrous rollicking health. It’s just that I prefer to wait stuff out rather than run for immediate medical attention.

Now not all of us aspire to be what our parents were. But many of us do. We have shared DNA, lifestyle, and environment pushing us to follow the same paths – unless the paths of our forebears show evidence of being one big horrendous mistake from start to finish.

So in my analogy here, according to the rules of my birthright, I usually self medicate my maladies with prunes, a salt-water gargle, or chicken broth, rather than pharmaceuticals. And, within the context of that thinking, I assume that many doctors (though I have no way of being certain how many), coming from homes of medical dependency, entirely shun such medieval measures in favor of pills.

I say this because some of them no doubt were raised in a household with a parent, neighbor, or uncle who was a doctor. I know two of my doctors are the offspring of doctors. Most farmers in my area are the offspring of farmers. And many teachers are the offspring of teachers. And so it is no great stretch to assume that many Doctors become Doctors for the same reason. And with that history, I think it is safe to say that in their youth, medications were dispensed more frequently than in other households.

I furthermore expect, that Doctors, like the Pharmacist I once worked for, self-medicate themselves at the first sniffle, cough, sneeze, or stomach cramp. The result of this kind of frequency of medication, according to experts in the study of pharmaceuticals, is that one soon builds an immunity to drugs that calls for an ever increasing strength of medication to arrest infections.

So now, to return to my original story. After my teeth were extracted, my mouth became infected. And because of this I was given an antibiotic.

With that antibiotic came that blood-curdling fact sheet that is dispensed with drugs nowadays. Now I’m not certain a mouth infection is life threatening, although I realize it could lead to blood poisoning that is. But still, according to the fact sheet I was given, this medication –

“…should only be used for serious infections because it can cause a severe (rarely fatal)
[thank god, for that while wiping beads of sweat from my brow]
intestinal condition…This condition may occur during treatment or even weeks after treatment has stopped.” [!??]

And furthermore, side effects include
“nausea, vomiting, mild diarrhea, sore/painful throat, joint pain/swelling, yellowing eyes or skin…oral thrush, vaginal yeast…rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, trouble breathing.”

Holy shirt! What is going on here? I have no immunity to anything medical. There is no reason to call out the entire brigade. One aspirin for me can easily arrest pain equal to the pain of child-birth. Guaranteed, I don’t need such an extreme antidote. Honest to god, I’m certain this bacteria in my mouth could be arrested with a salt water or lemon juice gargle, or a bit of moldy bread or cheese, perhaps even with nothing more than three sandwiches over three days layered with goose grease and raw garlic.

And so I ponder, “Why have I been slammed into this kind of extreme treatment? Surely there are pharmaceutical drugs that cure bacterial infections without radical desperation that verges on the point of 60% possibility of a kill and 40% possibility of a cure?”

That leads me to the conclusion that Doctors are impacted by two life experiences that I don’t have. One is intense medical study and knowledge. The other is their own immunity to drugs arising from living in a medical climate where drugs are dispensed like candy in order for health problems not to interfere with their education, study, travel, family life, or ultimate medical practice.

So now, as I sit on an examination table and have a small bit of infection examined, the Doctor reacts to my condition as if I came from the same environment that he came from. Seemingly with the assumption that I have swallowed as many medications, as he has, and so nothing will work for me except the most extreme measures. Which isn’t true of course. I know that, but how can he know that?

Sure I could tell him…but will he believe me? When within his own education and life experiences, he is so convinced otherwise?


Kate said...

Roberta, I'm with you on the "no pills" approach but rather homespun remedies. And it is rumored I am the healthiest person in this place where I live. But maybe that's just the luck of the genes. Anyhow, hope you're going to say you got over your infection (but not with goose grease!)

Esther said...

My children often tease me that the reason I never get sick is because I lived in a house full of "germs". My mother, bless her soul is known for her kindness, her hospitality, but never for her gleaming kitchen sink or spotless house. Now, I'm no slouch myself, I have plenty of germs and dust bunnies in my own home and feel fairly confident that if the black plague should reappear in our lifetime, our brood would come out just fine as we have survived moldy cheese and day old bread and 50% marked down meat past it's freshness date at the grocery store.

Dick said...

Another thought-provoking read, Roberta. I've managed thus far to stay pretty much clear of pills and potions. But as one with a robust immune system, I was shaken to core when my sarcoidosis was diagnosed last year. Latterly, I have derived some comfort from the bizarre notion that the auto-immune nature of the condition is a result of having so active a system!

Pauline said...

so often the side effects of a medicine are worse than the symptoms you're taking it for! I'm allergic to most man-made meds so have to tough it out for many illnesses. And you may be right - a doctor lives in a culture of prescriptive drugs. Let me know if he does hear you!

Roberta S said...

Thanks for the encouragement, kate. And so pleased you stopped in for a visit. You render thoughts after my own heart.

Now where did I put that goose grease?

Roberta S said...

Wisely said, esther. We have good immunities. My best came from spitting on the cow's salt block and scraping my raw rhubarb stick there before eating it.

Roberta S said...

Thanks for the comment Dick. Your theory about immunity won't be argued by me. We are in one accord - sounds like.

Roberta S said...

pauline, how I wish my doctor would hear me. But he doesn't and I don't expect he ever will. I'm not edjicated enough to have a sound opinion.

Joy Des Jardins said...

I hate taking pills to Roberta. I swear you wind up with more symptoms than you started out with; but there are those occasions when they just might be called for.....just might be. If you do have an infection young lady...MAYBE you need something....maybe not. I've felt the same way you do....because I just HATE taking pills. Keep us posted.

Roberta S said...

joy, I have to tell you I have been reluctantly taking my pills while watching for side effects. My mouth feels better and I'm certainly hoping the infection has cleared up. Only 4 more to go. I can't wait to get them down the hatch so hopefully my life can return to normal.

On top of the reluctance to take pills and the side effects is the inconvenience of having to get up at 6 a.m. to take a stupid pill. That would be with two cups of water that I don't want and can hardly swallow. But what am I complaining about?? There are so many with serious health problems that can't be so easily treated. I am pretty selfish-thinking at times. I thank you for your comment. In some obscure way it reminded me how lucky I am.