Mother was a nurse who fully subscribed to the principles of the medical model that surrounded her. Like many health professionals of her day, since she worked nights at a hospital helping to deliver babies, she took pills to get to sleep and other pills to help her wake up. In between her interrupted daytime sleep, she nursed her own six children and made house calls to neighbors dealing with sick children or needing her help in understanding what their doctor meant by what he told them.
Dad didn’t believe in sick. Beginning the day with breakfast and ending it with a good night’s sleep were his ideas of the best medicine. He didn’t get sick often and the two or three times I remember him getting the flu, most likely from one of us kids, he’d pile the bed thick with covers, drink lots of fluids, and cocoon himself there till “he’d sweated it out.”
Our refrigerator was filled with medicines my mother bought at the local pharmacy, or got as samples from the physicians at the hospital. There might be a special baby formula for my sister who couldn’t digest cows’ milk, vials of vitamin B-12 for the shots mother gave herself, or other prescription medicines that would last longer if refrigerated. Dad complained that we were growing our own penicillin and he’d tease Mother in front of guests that when the pharmacy runs out of anything, they call our house before reordering.
I’ve tried to come down somewhere in the middle of my parents’ diverse views on health and illness. Like my father, I’ve felt it’s better to prevent an illness than to try and recover from one, and food and lifestyle are critical elements I have some control of. But like my mother, if I get ill, I want the best doctors and nurses on my team.
I think both my parents would welcome the direction our culture is moving to help us care for our own health. Instruments like the Fitbit https://www.fitbit.com/cart?productId=114 and Apple’s new Watch http://www.apple.com/watch/ can provide ongoing information on how our body’s actually doing while we go about our daily lives, and even feedback about how we’re sleeping.
A couple of weeks ago, while visiting my son in the high desert I experienced some lightheadedness, which seemed a bit odd and scary. He suggested a late night trip to Walmart where we used a monitoring system to check my blood pressure, pulse, and weight. This, and the information on Google saved me a trip to an ER because I became reassured that my lightheadedness was due to dehydration, not uncommon in that part of the world in late summer.