Readers of this humble column often ask me how it is I
come up with some of the ideas that I write about. The answer is that
Iím constantly on the lookout for a saying, a thought, a notion, a
series of phenomena that I see in my practice or the world around me,
and then I build a story around it. Although I occasionally come up with
nothing, most of the time it works quite well. Sometimes, like this
morning, it seems like all of the cosmic forces that exist in our
infinite universe converged in my mind and Iím overwhelmed with so much
material that I donít know where to begin.
First off, as I sit here writing, I have the need, about
every two minutes, to blow my nose. If I didnít do so, the postnasal
drip would short out the computer keyboard. I have this cold in spite of
having taken for several weeks previously, echinacea, goldenseal, honey,
zinc lozenges, mega doses of vitamin C, blackberry brandy, and all of
that other ďnaturalĒ crap that exists out there in the world of folk
Next, as happens every year at this time, Iím inundated
with questions about why a beloved pet, after being flea-free all
summer, is now loaded with the little varmints in spite of having been
treated with brewerís yeast, B vitamins, orange-blossum shampoo, vinegar
baths, witch hazel rubs, and chewiní tobacco spit soaks.
Adding to the above, I recently rented a movie from our
local video store titled The Man in the Moon starring Jim Carey. The
movie was about the brilliant comedian named Andy Kaufman who died
fairly young of cancer (round cell carcinoma, I believe). Besides
documenting his tremendous talent as a comic, the movie also chronicled
his fight against his cancer. Sadly, in spite of his macrobiotic diets,
Zen meditation, crystal therapies, and ultimately, Filipino psychic
surgery, he still succumbed to his illness. (He did, eventually, undergo
radiation therapy also.)
Finally, and to save my life I canít remember where, I
recently read a story of a guy who, while hiking alone in the Brazilian
rain forest, was bitten by a fer-de-lance. For those who donít know
this, a fer-de-lance is one of the ten deadliest snakes in the world.
Anyway, this person, in spite of no medical care whatsoever, did not
Afterwards, he made an extensive study of other
snakebite victims to see if he could find out why he was spared. He
studied local herbal remedies, poultices, and rubs and discovered that
these folk cures had quite a high success rate, approximately 60
percent. However, in the process of doing his research, he discovered
the fer-de-lance had one quirky habit: about 60 per cent of the time it
bites a victim, it doesnít inject its venom. The success rate of doing
nothing with the snakebite wound was the same as all of the supposed
cures. Thatís the reason the author didnít die.
I can hear it now: ďSo, Doc, what in the world does your
cold, dog fleas, Andy Kaufman, and fer-de-lance pit vipers have to do
with anything? What about your dead chicken cure?Ē Dear readers, I am
constantly asked my opinion on alternative medicine and cures. Iím asked
about everything from Motherís home remedy for treating burns (somehow,
they always seem to work) to homeopathy (quite controversial, no
convincing scientific proof it does anything at allóin my humble
opinion); from Chinese herbal cures (which are doing a great job of
exterminating many species of flora and fauna throughout the world with
no valid science to justify the slaughter) and all the way down the list
to crystal therapy (sheer lunacy).
Itís my theory, therefore, that waving a dead chicken
over an ill patient would work as wellóif not betteróthan all of the
ďnaturalĒ cold remedies combined, all of my clientsí home flea
treatments, all of Mr. Kaufmanís alternative cancer therapies, as well
as the many native folk cures for snakebites.
Dear readers, the backbone upon which modern medicine is
based is the scientific method. That is, any medical therapy, any drug,
or any surgical procedure must be documented and shown to be safe, it
must be subjected to the scrutiny of medical colleagues, and, most
importantly, it must be reliably repeatable.
I consider myself quite open to all of the miracles of
our magnificent universe, but my training is in western medicine; that
is, I adhere to proven principles of disease and treatment as justified
by the scientific method and will continue to do so until shown
otherwise. I need to be able know with a high degree of assurance that
when I perform a medical procedure, it will work.
However, if anyone has a surefire way to cure this
darned cold, Iím all ears.