Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Philosophizing (Well, A Little Bit Ranting)

I've spent the last two days buffeting my body with radiation and filling it with indigestible goops in the interests of monitoring my health. I was thinking this afternoon about why I always come home in a bad mood from such occasions, and I think I hit upon something.

The whole Western Medical Establishment treats humans in a very mechanical way. I don't want to sound too stereotypical here, but it's a very male way to problem solve. Stick people with needles, slice them up, implant things in them, poison them, irradiate them. It may hurt, it may be uncomfortable, even embarrassing, but it's the quickest way to get the job done. But let's be honest—it's not very nurturing.

Many, many of the individual people in Western medicine are nurturing and kind, it's true. The infusion nurses are, without exception, warm and funny. Many of the doctors, particularly these days, are warming up to the human interaction they necessarily take part in, and allowing it to happen on more level social ground. The techs are generally nice, but they also hold jobs where it's important to be very precise, and they don't inherently have the same friendliness as the nurses.

Regardless how nice, personable, warm, or congenial everyone is, though, the actual things we patients are going through, the tests and the treatments and the monitoring, those things are one indignity after another to suffer through.

I hate spending my days doing tests at the clinic. No matter whether or not I arrive on time (and I'm usually close, but occasionally up to 10 minutes early or late), I invariably have to wait at least 30 minutes, and often more, for whatever procedure I am having that day. For many of the tests, I can't eat for 12 hours before, can't have coffee, and have to fill my gullet with barium or something equally difficult to swallow. For the PET, I'm also not allowed to exercise or do physical therapy for 24 hours before, and I have to eat a high-protein dinner the night before, and avoid sugars and carbs. Even though I have a port implanted in my body (which, convenient as it usually is, is undeniably an invasion), for some of the tests, they can't use the port and so I still have to have a needle jabbed into my arm. It can only be my left arm because of getting lymph nodes out under my right arm ten years ago, and the veins are tired in my left arm. They roll and mince away while the phlebotomist pokes around under the skin with her needle (for at least 3 minutes today), or jabs and jabs again. I don't usually have to wear hospital garb, but I have to take my seven earrings out, and every single CT of the last year I've been hassled about my bellybutton ring. It's been in for 14 years; it's a pain in the ass to take out (you need a pliers to pop out the ball), and impossible to put back without going to a piercing place. I will bother to take it out for surgeries, but it stays in for scans. It's been in every single scan I've ever had for 10 ½ years and nobody's complained until now; pretend it's shrapnel.

I was wondering this afternoon if medical care had to evolve this way, if the progression from Medicine Man or Medicine Woman to Visiting Doctor to depersonalized clinic of specialists was the only way for this river to flow. It seems so incongruous to me that I'm being subjected to all this stress and hassle, poison and violation, in the interests of being healthy. Maybe there's an alternate dimension, a branched off river not so far from ours, where healthcare is nurturing and spiritual and intuitive, where Dan is the norm and Drs Jason and Specht are the crazy, alternative Witch Doctors.

I'm living here in this dimension, though, on this river, and so the obvious choice to stay healthy—possibly the only choice—is to buy into the accepted norm and submit to the indignity. I'd like to think that even yet this could change, however. That maybe these rivers could merge again, and together work wonders. That if enough care and attention is given to the other forms of healthcare, to the humanizing, sensitive, intuitive forms—Acupuncture, Reiki, NIS (Neurolink, or Witch Doctory), Craniosacral Therapy, Homeopathy, and more—we could figure out a way to buoy people up to health, instead of pummeling them there.

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