Sure enough, bring a bunch of my age group together and the talk gets around to healthcare. One of my farfetched theories is that one just feels better when one talks about it.
Doc Gellenthien, my country doctor father, always had “the cure” for whatever came along, stashed away somewhere. Not all of these cures came out of a medicine bottle. In fact, many of them were a part of our everyday life. I assisted him a time or two when we had medical emergencies with our animals.
He always said newspapers, particularly black newsprint, made a somewhat sterile table cover if you needed to do emergency surgery on an animal or a patient. Dermatologists have known for a long time that Saran Wrap will cause blood to clot, yet not stick to the clot like cotton does. Doc would love the super glues of today because they can serve as sutures and often leave a cleaner scar.
Leeches were banned from surgeries for a long time, but now they are again used to suck up blood after some kinds of surgery. And there are many home remedies for warts. Doc discovered an electrical heat wand instrument at a medical convention and, of course, he had to have one.
I had a few warts on my hands and near my elbow when I was a teenager. He’d burn them off whenever he happened to notice them. No painkillers allowed, just sit still, don’t move and don’t get sick when the smell of burning flesh wafts through the examining room.
That’s not an easy thing to adhere to when you realize he’s burning your arm. I managed to meekly complain about this scenario, so from then on, he made me burn off my own warts. Now that is not easy to do, but at least I had some control of the burning.
Doc never laughed at a home remedy his patients told him about. Many of his patients brought him samples of the medicinal herbs gathered and used in this area. He regularly researched and searched out information he could find on them.
The big collection of jars and his patients’ stories of their history and what they were used for have become part of the Valmora room at our medical school historical library in Albuquerque. More than one student has used this collection in research. And I know as I write this that yet another cure will be found for some ailment in some of these very old herbs.
I still collect remedio trivia, and not long ago, I read that milk of magnesia works as well as any deodorant, yet has no serious side effects. Doc always preferred Crisco to fancy hand creams for chapped body parts. And rubbing a bar of soap on one’s leg when it cramps will usually stop the cramp right away.
Soap also works on my somewhat numb hand if I grip the steering wheel too hard or turn the wrong way in bed. Small bars of soap aren’t just by the sink in my house — they are within easy reach everywhere. Doc had us use drinking water with baking soda in it when we got an upset stomach (when we were kids) — wow! That was awful. Now ginger works just as well, and candied ginger is easy to swallow. Doc never realized or questioned why our mother always had ginger snaps in the house. I’d love to ask why he never figured that out.
Medical science has come a long way, a very long way, since I was a kid, but many of the golden oldies in treatment still outperform the new and fancy drugs out there.
I really don’t miss having a jar of turpentine or a bottle of castor oil in the medicine cabinet and I’ll bet most of you don’t either. And I can still hear Doc’s words of wisdom: “Eat right, get plenty of sleep, quit worrying and don’t rush into anything.”
That set of ideas is sure to keep us healthy and happy.
Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.