Many have asked how my mom is faring since my January post. I’m thrilled to report that she has her speech back which is remarkable. However, since then I have almost killed her twice but it is mostly her fault.
We were raised Jehovah’s Witness by my mom (and agnostic dad). The JWs are the “no blood” group. Often confused with the Christian Scientists who are the “no medicine” group.
My mom was the MacGyver of home medicine. Anything that ailed us was healed with home remedies and naturopathic approaches. White iodine, merthiolate and garlic were our medicine cabinet staples. Ignoring the warnings and precautions on the bottle, a sore throat was swabbed with ginsian violet (and glycerin). I don’t know if it’s related or not but Dorothy and I have no tonsils even though no doctor ever removed them.
Trish got whooping cough right after an immunization and that was the end of that. The three kids that followed Trish never got vaccinated. When the school pressed her to have us immunized, my Mom threw down the religious belief card even though the JWs don’t oppose vaccinations. There really is no such thing as a Jehovah’s Scientist.
In our house there was also the Red Book. A phenomenal medical book with photographs and drawings that made all of the most abhorrent diseases come to life like a Disney pop-up book.
When I was 7, a sore tummy turned into an unbearable pain that the Red Book Ouija said was appendicitis. The Phone-a-Doc condescendingly told my mom to stop reading into my symptoms and to put a heating pad on my belly, subsequently leading to a ruptured appendix. The take away story is that I nearly died. But the undercurrent was that mom’s diagnosis had been correct. She was the master.
Besides being the preeminent Pierman diagnostic tool, the Red Book offered us hours of entertainment. We often used the book as a game, staring in disgusted amazement at the photos and drawings of diseases we couldn’t pronounce, we would tease each other, “The next page is going to be your disease”. Please, do NOT let me get syphilis again, I would say to my 6-year old self.
Eleven of us survived childhood with little more medical care than the sage offerings from the Red Book which my mom still keeps in her formidable library. Its pages fall open automatically to the heinously fascinating drawing of a man with shingles.
As a responsible and educated adult I naturally approach my own health in a much more sophisticated way:
I have Google.
Of course I didn’t have a flu shot this year (Haven’t you been listening?) so naturally I became ill and diagnosed myself with the flu in January. A month later Dr. Google helped me diagnose myself with salmonella and WebMD laid out my treatment plan. Both my diagnoses were confirmed accurate when my mom, not coincidentally, came down with the same diseases.
My mom’s flu put her in the hospital and her salmonella put her on high dose antibiotics. So she was at death’s door, sure. But how proud must she have been of me for self-diagnosing and medicating? The student had become the master!
When she called to tell me about her salmonella we talked about what an indomitable disease it is and she said, “You should’ve gone to the doctor about that.” Her incongruent words suspended between our telephone line for the briefest of seconds. And then we both laughed.
Don’t judge me for almost killing my mom. She started it.