Friday, June 19, 2009

I'm Not a Doctor and I Don't Play One on TV

"Common sense is in medicine the master workman." ~Peter Latham

"Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died." ~Erma Bombeck

"I told my doctor I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places." ~Henny Youngman

You can call me "Grace."

My efforts to get the house painted, repaired, and emptied out, and our things purged and sorted basically became an exercise in pile management. Gotta clean out the closet? Move the piles to the bedroom. The bedroom needs painting? Move the piles to the closet. The bedroom and closet need carpet installed? Move the piles to the living room. Yes, right beside the couch and loveseat that someone was supposed to come get yesterday, but that now will be picked up tomorrow after they have been completely surrounded by … piles.

The same piles I tripped over while, yes, moving a pile.

The same piles that landed me in a twisted heap of embarrassment, with pain in my foot, uh, to boot. J

“It’s just sprained,” I told myself as I kept working for several more days, not about to take time out to go to the doctor for such a frivolous injury.

But the swelling and pain remained. Eighteen days later, I finally had x-rays and now, with a cracked third metatarsal, I am in that boot I referred to.

So stylish, huh?

Not one to overreact, or at least wishing to not appear to be overreacting, I tend to be rather conservative when it comes to seeking medical attention. Plus, I’m still working toward my deductable here. Seriously, people.

So, instead of getting to the doctor earlier, I shamelessly sought free advice from two different orthopedists we know. One nailed it, sight unseen, right on the third metatarsal, and suggested I wear the boot my mother had. Impressive. Nearly two weeks later I paid a podiatrist for three x-rays, and the same diagnosis and treatment regimen. And she inflicted pain on me in the process. Remind me to listen to my friend next time.

Stranger still than tripping and breaking a bone is the night last week when the relentless itching of my hands and feet woke me repeatedly. No, no rash; no visible reason for such irritation … just the palms and backs of my hands itching wildly, and the tops and bottoms of my feet doing the same. I am certain that I was sending the histamines in my body into a frenzy of pleasure, but I couldn’t help it. It was sheer insanity. About the third time I awoke, in between the scratches, I googled my way to another attempt at self-diagnosis.

I was pretty certain that I did not have Crohn’s Disease, but there was one other “reason” that seemed popular on those message boards (I couldn’t find any good medically-supported site that gave me any assistance whatsoever) - a deficiency of B-12.


We were staying in someone’s home, so I figured it was some soap I must be allergic to, or the detergent that this woman used for her sheets, or something. Finally, after scratching the itch of every histamine from Raleigh to Charlotte, and applying several layers of moisturizer, fatigue took over and I was able to sleep through the rest of the night.

The next night we stayed with someone else – no problem. Her detergent must be a little more me-friendly, I assumed.

The next night, however, back at my parents’ house, I awoke again, only to spend two hours scratching – again, the palms, soles, tops, and backs of my hands and feet.

The following day, I bought some B-12.

Figured if nothing else, if it was psychosomatic, I could at least take it long enough to trick myself into thinking I was better. I have taken it pretty regularly, and had no more problems. Yet. Heh heh.

A couple days ago I had a long conversation with a teenager about, well, teenagerish stuff. At one point I mentioned how we are all spiritual beings. She didn’t quite understand, so I tried to explain how God made us with a void that can only be filled (at least effectively) by Him. Of course, some people twist that spirituality, trying to self-medicate with all sorts of things. I embarked on a litany of youth-specific solutions to filling the God-shaped hole, but, of course this syndrome isn't limited to adolescents. Though certainly some of these self-medications, like my B-12 are “good,” maybe even “spiritual,” perhaps like my B-12, they might have only a placebo effect. At best, they probably just treat the symptoms of the need for a relationship with God – symptoms such as loneliness, emptiness, and lack of purpose.

Until I saw a doctor for my foot, I knew it was a possibility that I had broken a bone, but there was no way to be certain. I even wore a boot for a short period of time, but without that confidence that came from the podiatrist, I felt stupid and ended up “losing” the boot. I walked carefully, and wore good sturdy shoes. I tried to stay off of it when possible. But the pain and swelling still persisted, reinforcing to me that something was wrong. Only when I had the official word of a doctor, the expert’s recommendation of what would bring the healing my foot needed, did I gain the confidence and motivation to do so.

Those who have not received the WORD of the Great Physician, the Expert’s knowledge of what is needed to bring healing in their lives, spiritually speaking, also lack that confidence and motivation. They may or may not recognize that there is a hole there, a void waiting to be filled, but they feel its effects, and many times they fill it with all sorts of things. Unfortunately, though, short of accepting God’s gift of salvation through a Lordship relationship with Christ, the pain in their hearts can only continue.

Pray with me for the 2300 language groups around the world (several hundred of which are in Papua New Guinea) who still do not have the WORD of God in their mother tongue - the "official" recommendation for the only treatment that can fill their empty, sin-sick, purposeless souls.

Trust me … self-medication is insufficient.

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(Updated 13 April 2013)