You know, sometimes I wish we could go back to the practice of medicine the way it used to be. With all the centralized offices, labs, computers etc., we’ve lost something good, the human element of medical practice.
(Yes, of course I understand the efficiency and importance of all the blamed, cold machines. I’ve been up close and personal with too many of them for myself as well as my family.)
When I was a little girl, our doctor’s name was Dr. Mitchell. When Mother decided we were sick, she called him and he came to our house. In winter, I wore long, flannel nightgowns which either Mother or one of her sisters made. I had to have a fresh one and my face washed when the doctor was coming. Sometimes we waited all afternoon if there was a lot of sickness. But that was so much better than sitting forever in a waiting room full of other sick kids and catching or spreading millions of germs.
My brothers and I had most of the childhood illnesses back then. Usually, because they were older, they brought them home to me.
One time, Mother had all three of us sick with something -- I believe it was mumps or perhaps measles. One could tell when a child had measles because he would break out in small red spots. The diagnoses was easy if the child drank hot spiced (Russian) tea because it would force the rash. Anyway, that time, Mother’s nerves became pretty shattered because she had us all in the same room, on different beds, and the boys spent lots of time throwing things at each other while I screamed at them. Our meals were brought to us on trays and the food was the type for sick people, broths and custards, and wonderful sweet tea. (However, I’ve never liked eating in bed so ‘’Breakfast in Bed’’ is no treat for me.)
Remember, there was no TV back then and our only radio was in the living room. Also, there were no sulfa drugs or antibiotics or immunizations. We got vaccinated and got DPT shots and in the deep south, typhoid shots, then yearly boosters. We were made to stay in bed when we were sick and for two days after the fever left. Pneumonia was a very scary, often fatal disease, back then.
(So much has changed, now. When my little ones were sick, I opened the studio couch, in the family room and the sick one watched TV etc. That’s where Dee was when the man came to install our first color TV. The man taught her how to operate it and for years her dad wouldn’t let anyone but Dee touch it.)
During WW2, most of the medical people who were able went to war with our military. We had only a very few older doctors, who came out of retirement. In many areas there were just not enough and the lines and waits were long. It must have been exhausting for those older doctors and dentists.
It was just too long for my dad so he went out back with a pair of pliers and pulled his own tooth once. When my mother found out about it, she was furious because he could have got an infection. A friend told him about taking a nail file to a sharp tooth he had broken. I’m not sure why but we couldn’t get toothpaste. Mother kept a container of a mixture of salt and baking soda which we used to brush our teeth. We placed a little in the palm of our hand – then picked it up with our wet toothbrush.
I seem to recall that broken bones were almost the only reason to be taken the doctor back during the war. Looking back, I realize that my parents were ahead of their time when it came to sanitation and preventive medicine. They tried hard to avoid people who had infections and they were adamant about hand washing.
When I started first grade, my mother told me to never accept cookies or food from little boys. She said, “They touch their things when they go to the bathroom and they are not good about washing their hands!”
My husband told me that his mother always told her three boys to wash their hands when they went to the bathroom. So they did - but not after they urinated, always before going ….
So everything has changed and we all grew up but sometimes I miss the backrubs and custards and old Dr.Mitchell patting my hand. And old folks who used to get ‘’hardening of the arteries ‘’ now get illnesses with fancy names.
We are told not to call our MD if we have a problem after hours but just go to an emergency room. We have a different doc for every organ and bone and disease. Now, my index finger is achy and I wonder if there is a special doc for that? Guess I should learn to type with my thumb…