Specialists…

I’m old enough to remember taking the family dog to a vet who ran his practice out of a converted shed in his back yard. Treatment for most any ailment was a shot of antibiotics and a bland diet – his weapon of choice was boiled hamburger and rice. It was the middle 1980s and the very notion, at least in the mountains of western Maryland, that there should be anything remotely like a “specialty” vet didn’t cross any of our minds. Dogs got their rabies shot every 3rd year, ate table scraps mixed with their dry food, and all lasted for somewhere between 8 and 10 years.

Flash forward 30 years…

My bulldog, being typical of his breed, assembled an impressive roster of medical professionals on his “healthcare team.” Cardiologists, allergists, orthopedic surgeons, and anesthesiologists over the course of treating his many various conditions. My labrador, now into old age herself, has already acquired a opthmologist. In the coming weeks it’s likely we’ll add a radiologist, an oncologist, and a general surgeon to her list.

Veterinary medicine as it exists today – with the ability to diagnose and treat the family dog in a remarkably similar way to how how I’d be treated if I walked through the doors at Hopkins with the same symptoms – is a marvel. It’s also a money making juggernaught, but that’s a separate discussion. The practice I’m taking Maggie to this week in hopes of working up a final diagnosis and beginning outline of a treatment plan includes easily a thousand or more years of combined experience in emergency medicine, cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, radiology, neurology, oncology, and ophthalmology, in addition to maintaining six surgeons on staff. Their posted resumes are suitably impressive (yes, I’ve read them all). I’m cautiously optimistic that all this will translate into identifying what the best options look like for the road ahead.

I’m walking into this week with just enough knowledge based on internet deep diving and journal article reading to hopefully ask reasonably informed questions. I’ll be counting on this bunch to know the line between what science can do and what science should do. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m thankful that the state of the art has grown beyond crate rest along with boiled hamburger and rice, but there’s more than a little bit of me that misses simple, country diagnostics and treatment – and its inherent acceptance that the power of medical science to extend life has, and should have, logical limitations.


The sadists among us…

I don’t like going to the dentist. You’d never know it from the amount of money that I’ve dumped into my teeth over the last 20 years, but I don’t. That’s probably why I generally put it off as long as possible between visits. I’ve convinced myself that the most logical approach is not to worry about it until something hurts and then I can have the issue addressed. Yes, I know that idea probably compounds the issues and means more time in the chair… but at least those times are less frequent.

I don’t mean to imply I have a random phobia of the dentist. It’s not like being afraid of spiders or thing that lurk in the dark. I avoid the dentist for good reason, the best reason – childhood trauma. My reluctance to fully commit to a modern dentistry stems all the way back to the early mid-1990s. That’s when the old dentist I saw as a kid decided that since it was a small cavity, he could go after it without Novocain and be finished in a jiffy.

As it turns out, having someone drill on a molar without numbing it up first hurts like a mother. I don’t recommend it. You might say that I’m pain intolerant. Being the rational creature that I am, I seek to minimize painful experiences. Which leads me back to the original statement: I don’t like going to the dentist.

I’m sure they’re perfectly good people and that they have the science to back themselves up… but you’re never going entirely convince me that dentistry isn’t just a vast conspiracy of the most sadistic among us to inflict pain on the masses under their diabolical cover as medical professionals.

Quack…

Medical science isn’t likely to find a bigger cheerleader than me… most of the time. When the chips are down, I can almost always count on them to come up with some chemical concoction the in some way improves my quality of life. Except this week, of course. I’m not in any way disputing the official medical diagnosis of “it looks like you have some fluid behind your eardrum,” but I am, however, disputing the “keep doing what you’re doing and give it another week” advice. It’s not like I’m in there asking for uppers, downers, or even leeches. All I’m asking for is something better than the standard little red pill that I’ve been taking every time I get sick since I was a kid. After two weeks, I don’t think asking for something with a little more horsepower is an unreasonable kind of thing.

Medical science? Meh. Quackery. You failed me. Next time, I’ll just got to Walgreens, buy them out of NyQuil, and sleep til I’m better.

Can’t stay away…

After what seems like an excessive amount of scanning, poking, prodding, and stressing, my faith in the marvel that is modern medical science, is somewhat less than complete. The good news is that there are no obvious signs of things that could cause me to suddenly drop dead. The bad news is that whatever it is that’s causing my head to occasionally explode remains as a diagnosis of “uhhh… we’re not really sure, but here’s some heavy duty pain meds to take in case it comes back.” Now I’m as big a believer in better living through chemistry as anyone around, I think It’d still rather know what it is than what it isn’t. Since that outcome is apparently a bridge too far, I’ll follow my other tried and true solution and try ignoring the problem until it goes away on its own.

… And now back to your regularly scheduled blogging hiatus.