Suspenders and belt
Faith in medicine
Look, I know. I know I’ve written too damned many of these faith essays lately. I had a decent run of one new religious experience after another for at least a year and a half, but every once in a while, something comes up on Sunday, and then there’s no backup plan. This week, I even had a backup plan for Monday—to visit the weekly peace protest at the federal building—but since it’s President’s Day, my son is home from school. That means, I’d have to either go home and get him and return downtown or leave him at home—alone—for another two hours. It’s just not fair, particularly when Hunter is the reason I’ve been thinking lately about faith, science and health.
It was Science Project weekend. It’s that weekend where all the research, study and preparation come together in one massive wormnest of Experimentation. But that’s really not what I’m writing about. What I’m writing about is the fact that Hunter’s experiment was momentarily interrupted when my friends, Jeff and Karen Brooke, brought over herbs to help me fight this disease I’ve been suffering from. Now, you know me; I’m imaginative, but I’m pretty grounded in reality. After three-plus months of suffering intermittent flu symptoms, why would I consult an herbalist, but not a doctor? That seems a bit … crazy.
It boils down to a question of where we put our faith. For the last several months, I’ve put my faith in my body’s ability to ward off any infection that comes along. It’s always been true. I’m about as tough as they come, powering through just about any ache or pain, catch a flu every couple of years or so. Even when I suffered from gall bladder issues, and the docs wanted to pull it out, I was, “No, I think I’ll control my behavior, lose some weight and fix it—and high blood pressure and heartburn and high cholesterol and high triglycerides—too.” In fact, when times have been tough, my health was never untrustworthy.
But I’ve never been a guy who put particular “faith” in alternative medicines. Never. I do not believe they are more or less effective than traditional Western medicine. And students of language and semantics, isn’t it odd that I would call Western medicine “traditional,” since it’s really the only form of medicine practiced in this world that isn’t older than these United States?
So, in two fell swoops, I undermined my faith—that the body is the best way to overcome the body’s assailants—had an herbalist make a friendly house call, took his medicine, and three hours later, delivered my still slightly warm body to the Urgent Care up on Summit Ridge where (in a matter of minutes, honestly, amazingly quickly) the physician’s assistant pronounced me suffering from either bronchitis or walking pneumonia (I didn’t want an X-ray, which would have made the final determination), handed me prescriptions for antibiotics, an inhaler and a codeine-based cough syrup.
And even after all of that, I’ve got a strong feeling in the pit of my stomach, that I should have just waited for my body to do the job itself—maybe in the spring.
Do you get where I’m going with all this? Again, it’s all about where you choose to put your faith. I don’t know how herbs can strengthen my immune response, but I believe Brooke does. I don’t know how antibiotics are developed or how they zero in on pneumonia germs, but I believe they do. I’ve got the vaguest idea of how the immune system works, but it’s mostly worked for me in the past. Really, in all these cases, I’m just choosing to have faith that what I’m told is the truth. So, why not just do what many religions demand, and leave my health in the hands of the gods? Or would that seem … crazy?