Equine Medicine

Equine MedicineEveryone knows what big babies men are about illness.   One little sniffle and they’re down for the count. Then it’s, “Sweetie, could you bring me some hot tea with honey,” and “Honey, how about some chicken soup?” Next thing you know, your big baby is asking for tissues, Tylenol, NyQuil, cough drops, the heating pad, extra blankets, Vicks, etc., etc.

I’ve fluffed pillows for my own big baby, laid cool clothes across his forehead, run for warm socks and Theraflu in the middle of the night when he woke up with chills. I’ve administered B-12, zinc drops, vitamin C, and Echinacea. And one time, I even held his hand and shot nasal spray up his nose because he has this thing about his nose. He can barely stand for the doctor to touch it. It’s quite hilarious.

Anyhow, during a routine checkup for my big baby, the doctor asked if he wanted a flu shot. Now my baby knows how bad flu can be for someone who has dealt with asthma all his life. You don’t want flu on top of that. So naturally, he accepted the shot.

I asked him how his doctor visit went when he came home. He told me that all was well and that he got a flu shot. I snorted because I am the exact opposite of my big baby when it comes to health.  I am not cautious, I put off going to the doctor as long as possible and usually only go kicking and screaming, I would die in my own bed before admitting that I was sick, I only do shots if they’re in glasses, and I think doctors see you coming with dollar signs dancing before their eyes.

So, I had to rag on him just a titch about the shot.

“Boy, did they see you coming. You go in for one reason and they score big bucks getting you to take a shot.”

“Well, this way I won’t get flu.”

“Do you know how many people get the flu anyhow? And they probably wouldn’t have if they hadn’t taken the stupid shot. You’ll be sorry.”

Now this may sound harsh, but we’ve teased each other quite wickedly for over twenty years of marriage. We totally get each other’s sense of humor. Besides, a few months later, big baby had his revenge. I developed the longest lasting case of flu I have ever had. And no, I hadn’t taken the shot.

Weeks after my doctor somewhat proudly announced that I had flu (I suspect he felt bitter yet superior over my stubbornness), I was still suffering under the effects of the illness. I couldn’t regain my energy which left me listless and not a little crabby.

One day, while complaining about how long it had been since I felt well, big baby reminded me that I hadn’t taken the flu shot. He even suggested that I probably should have and said something like who’s sorry now. Well, of all the gall! Can you believe he’d kick me when I was down? I summoned what little energy I could to retaliate.

“Yeah, well, you’re like an old draft horse, you know?”

“What do you mean?”

“They lead you where they want you to go, and you comply. Just strap on a bag of oats and ole Willy will take the shot. I, on the other hand, am a thoroughbred.”

“Yeah! High-strung, stubborn, and unpredictable!”

(Long, long pause for shared laughter. Still laughing. Still laughing. Finally, we’re winding down.)

“Okay, I’ll own that one.”

So while I still refuse to get the flu shot every year, at least I know big baby will care for his stubborn pony.

Open up and say, Ahh!

images (5)Despite what the government has done to healthcare, what we experience in America today is light years ahead of healthcare in the early 1900s. Consider Calvin Coolidge, Jr., the President’s son. After developing a blister on his toe while playing lawn tennis, he contracted an infection from a relatively common bacterium, Staphylococcus aureus. Within a week, the sixteen year-old was dead. Something we all take for granted today wasn’t readily available when young Calvin needed it: penicillin.

I cannot imagine what it must have been like for people whose life expectancy was 53 for men and 54 for women. Every nick, scrape, and cut had to be taken seriously, or it could lead to death. My own great-grandfather lost his life to a cut he received while working on the railroad. After blood poisoning set in, the only option was amputation. He refused to let the doctor take his leg, and the infection took his life.

Consider childbirth. Often unsanitary conditions led to a high rate of infant and mother mortality. Midwifes or female relatives or neighbors were responsible for delivering babies, especially among the poor. Having a doctor present was a luxury, and even then, life hung in the balance.

It sounds rather third-world when you read about it and not at all like America today where there’s a pill to pop for just about every illness or disease and organizations dedicated to medical research.

Before this post becomes too morbid, I’ll focus on the research I conducted for the one disease that threatened the lives of the characters in my 300px-CampFunstonKS-InfluenzaHospitalnovel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles. It also occurred during the above-mentioned time period of the early 1900s.

Known by the nickname Spanish Flu, the 1918 flu pandemic hit the world in two waves and reached remote places such as Pacific Islands and the Arctic. Around 500 million people were infected and 50-100 million died, 3-5% of the world’s population.

The deadly H1N1 virus attacked healthy young adults by causing an overreaction of the body’s immune system. The very young, elderly, or previously sick patients actually had a better chance of surviving because their immune system was already underperforming.

It’s also no coincidence that the flu virus thrived among the soldiers fighting in World War I. They were weakened from malnourishment and stress, and troop movements helped spread the disease. Obituaries of those who succumbed to the flu piled up next to those of soldiers who lost their lives in battle.

The Great Pandemic website provides valuable information on what is still one of the most well-known natural disasters in the world today. With all of the improvements in medicine, it’s hard to fathom something like this occurring again. Yet I wonder if we’re not living in the shadow of the flu pandemic or possibly its more lethal, mutated cousin.

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