Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How Things Have Changed

With all of the talk about health care and reform, my thoughts will go to health practices of the past more and more. And, of course, my family has been in the middle of some of the weirdest.

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My great-grandmother never learned to speak English. I really don't remember how much she understood, but I usually communicated with her in my limited Finnish, so I'm sure she understood as little as she spoke. As is very common in my family, my GGM had blood pressure issues, so she had to see a doctor on a regular basis. And because none of the local doctors spoke Finn, The Mother had to go with her to her appointments. During one of her physicals, the doctor noticed that GGM didn't have any tonsils. Considering she was born at the end of the 19th century, it was a bit unusual, so the doctor asked when and where did she have the surgery. The Mother translated back that she said she was given turpentine to drink and that she swallowed them because of it. Of course, the doc asked The Mother to ask again, as he was quite aghast at the answer and was sure she didn't understand the question. Upon further questioning, my GGM insisted that she swallowed her tonsils after drinking turpentine. The doctor told The Mother to 'let her believe what she wants.' Actually, turpentine WAS used as a folk remedy for several things--one of which was for sore throats. :)

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Back in the 1950's, one of the secrets many housewives had was their addiction to speed. But then, it wasn't a secret from anyone but the menfolk. The Mother, along with her aunts, cousins, and friends, were all using 'diet pills' on a regular basis. Each of them would go to the nearest Dr Feelgood, get a prescription for amphetamines, and then distribute the pills among the rest of the group. When everyone had gone to one doctor--and it was too soon for them to get another prescription--they would find out through the grapevine who the next liberal doctor was and make their appointments accordingly. This went on for quite some time. The Mother was so wired, that she would be up at 3:00 AM, cleaning the UNDERSIDE of the kitchen table with a toothbrush. One day, The Father had enough and took her pills and flushed them down the toilet. Other than her having a major meltdown, she somehow managed to get through the withdrawal on her own.

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Smoking, of course, is the biggest bug-a-boo to continue to haunt some people. (As an ex-smoker, I would beg everyone NOT to start. However, I feel everyone has a right to smoke if they want and I'm sick and tired of the witch hunt against smokers.) This hatred for smoking hasn't always been the case. After The Mother gave birth to The Brother, her obstetrician pulled out his cigarettes, lit one for himself and one for The Mother, and they shared a quiet moment together. This was in the recovery room of the hospital! Talk about different times. Actually, when I gave birth to The Oldest, smoking was still allowed in our hospital. While I wasn't allowed to smoke in my room, I was able to go to the father's 'waiting room' and smoke to my heart's content.

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When I was in 9th grade, I had plantar warts. I'm not talking one--the entire ball of my foot was covered in them. It was so bad that I was limping. And because we weren't allowed in the school swimming pool if we had plantar warts, I wound up in the doctor's office to have them removed. (I was pleased to not have to swim, but as swimming was a requirement for my phys ed credit, I needed to get back in the pool.) As my infestation was so bad, the doctor could do nothing in his office. At the time--and probably still to this day--the standard way of handling plantar warts was cutting them out. The doctor said to remove the warts from my foot would require surgery and THAT would require removing a good part of the ball of my foot. (Was this true? Who knows.) So, the recommendation was x-ray therapy. (This wasn't such a far-fetched idea. At the time, acne was also taken care of with x-ray therapy.) I went in once a week for a month and got my warts zapped with x-rays. It worked. After a couple of months, the warts just peeled off of my foot--and I suffered no amount of pain because of it. However, I wonder how much damage has been done to my body over the years because of x-rays. Between the chest x-rays I had as a child, the x-ray therapy, my working in a dentist office (where I took x-rays), and all the rest, I'm sure I have been exposed to more than what I should have.


11 comments:

ordinaryjanet said...

Turpentine! Good Lord! and here I thought Brussels sprouts were child abuse.

I don't know if my mother took those pills, I'll ask-but somehow I doubt it. I took speed once in college, and I didn't eat for three days, I can't remember if I slept, I just remember the not eating. I never took it again.

I can't believe you could walk at all with plantar warts all over your foot-I'm brought to my knees with just one.

cmk said...

Those folk remedies were something else, hey? ;)

I was given speed/amphetamines for menstrual cramps. I think I used about four of the pills and quit. Could not stand the jittery feeling. I remember thinking "And people do this to themselves on purpose? For FUN?" That was something that I could never understand.

I walked on the warts because I KNEW how they removed them and there was NO WAY any doctor was cutting into my foot. They would have had to sedate me, for sure. They STILL would be there today if The Mother wouldn't have noticed my limping. :|

ordinaryjanet said...

I've had 'em removed several times. The worst part, to me, is the shot of Novocain. That hurts worse than when it wears off. I can't watch when the doc is doing that, and I'm proud that I haven't (yet) screamed. I wish he'd have slipped me something to make me have the warm fuzzies first.

cmk said...

{{shudder}}

ordinaryjanet said...

have I made you sick yet?

cmk said...

All I say is 'cancel, cancel' and put it out of my mind like it never happened! I ignore very well. ;)

meleah rebeccah said...

"(As an ex-smoker, I would beg everyone NOT to start. However, I feel everyone has a right to smoke if they want and I'm sick and tired of the witch hunt against smokers.)"

I LOVE YOU for saying THAT! Really, its enough already.

Ranger Tom said...

I'm still thinking we're not even on the same planet that we grew up on...

cmk said...

mel: It is one of my biggest pet peeves when smokers are vilified like they are. When smoking was taken out of pubs/bars, I couldn't believe it! My way of thinking: if you don't want to be around smokers, then DON'T GO TO THE ESTABLISHMENT!! I don't enjoy being around all of the smoke, at times, but it is my own decision whether I will stay there or not--I don't need the guv'mint telling me that I need to be babysat. Pisses me off.

Tom: We were with friends last night and talking the exact same thing. Way too much change from when we were younger...

Ranger Tom said...

I think it's only going to get worse...

I don't have any kids, but if I did I'd be very afraid for what's in store for them.

God help us all.

cmk said...

I have been saying for far too many years that I'm thankful I'm not raising kids today!