Chapter 14: LOSING FAITH IN MODERN MEDICINE
I hesitate to write this chapter because in all honesty, I have mixed feelings concerning the medical model. On one hand, I have a deep respect for the medical community and I am extremely grateful for the hard work and dedication that doctors, nurses, EMTs and others involved in healthcare exemplify. As far as emergency care is concerned, there is no doubt in my mind that our hospitals are second to none. That being said, my personal experiences in my adult life have led me to believe that there is a lot of room for improvement in the way we handle chronic disease, the birthing process, and how people are treated in general. It seems that common sense and being the doctor is sometimes abandoned in exchange for money.
One of the scariest moments of my life happened during the birth of my younger son. My wife wanted to have a natural birth. She tried to get through the labor but when the contractions started to intensify she decided to go with the epidural. I have never experienced the pains of labor (obviously) and it is not my intention to pass judgement. If you feel you need an epidural during labor it is your choice ladies and I support that decision. That being said, I would like to share this story with you so that you know the risk involved.
When the anesthesiologist came into the room I felt fine. The he pulled out the needle that he would be inserting into my wife’s back. I am not going to lie-I almost fainted. He glanced over at me and asked if I was okay. I thought I was hiding it well, the fact that I was about to pass out, but I guess I wasn’t! I made it through without losing consciousness and I though everything was fine and dandy. Mommy seemed relaxed now and it looked like a smooth birth was about to take place. Suddenly the bleeps on the heart rate monitor started to slow, and then they stopped altogether. I looked at my wife and she was turning blue. She had stopped breathing. “What is going on?” I screamed to the nurse, who luckily was in the room at the time. “She is having a reaction to the epidural,” she replied. I could see that she was visible shaking. “What should I do?” I asked. “Just stay calm sir, I’ve got this,” was the nurse’s answer. With shaking hands she started punching in numbers into the computer and loaded up a needle with epinephrine. She injected the drug into the IV and almost instantaneously my wife’s heart started beating again. She took in a deep breath of air with a gasp and her face went from blue, to pale white, to full of color within a matter of seconds. She opened her eyes and looked around, stunned. “What happened?” she asked. “You died.” I replied. Probably not the best answer but it was all I could come up with. “That’s what I thought,” she said calmly, “I felt like I was dying.” We held hands and put our heads together, shedding tears and thanking God that her life had been spared. She went on to deliver baby Davy just hours later, a perfectly healthy baby boy. I am happy to report Davy is happy and healthy and did not suffer any birth trauma even though his mom did in fact die during his birth. The point of the story is to exhibit my opinion that although modern medicine produces countless miracles, it also walks a fine line at times. If I could sum it up in one sentence without prejudice, I would say that at the very least there are times when the medical establishment is very cavalier with peoples’ lives.
The next hospital visit for Davy came three years later, when he developed RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). I was out of town at the time he entered the hospital, but dropped everything and drove from Dallas to San Antonio to be there. When I arrived he was having trouble breathing, his oxygen was at 82 (that’s bad as it should be closer to 100), and according to the doctors his veins were on the verge of collapsing. His eyes were red and he was crying, but he immediately perked up when he saw me. I analyzed his thoracic spine (mid-back) and found multiple restrictions. I adjusted what I found, right there on the hospital bed, and watched his oxygen normalize within five minutes. His breathing improved just as quickly and the nurses were amazed at how much he had improved in a matter of minutes. I wasn’t surprised at all…that’s chiropractic! Originally the doctors had predicted he would need to stay five days to recover fully, but after he stabilized they revised the prediction to three days, and in reality he was released after only two days.
We were not out of the woods yet as Davy was still on a powerful steroid, which was causing some very serious side effects. He had been up for 24 hours straight and the steroid was not allowing him to sleep. In fact he was getting so bad that we had to hold him down, he was trying to pull his own hair out and grabbing the skin on his chest and trying to rip it off. I was livid and immediately recognized it as a reaction to the drugs. I called the nurse in and asked her if she could do anything, she replied that this type of reaction was normal. WHAT?!? When she left the room I turned to my wife and let loose a string of explicatives. I couldn’t accept the fact that a three year-old kid pulling his hair and grabbing his skin until it bled was considered “okay” by these healthcare workers. We literally had to take turns restraining him! I called the nurse back and asked if we could give him something to calm him down, to counteract the steroid. Usually I am the last guy that would ever support giving a child more medication, but I felt that this had reached an emergency status. She said she didn’t think the doctor would be willing to prescribe any more medication and that we would have to wait until it wore off. I asked her if the doctor would be willing to administer children’s Benadryl, or if she knew of any other common over-the-counter medication that could help my poor baby sleep. Her face lightened up and she said, “That’s a really good idea. I don’t think Benadryl would react to the steroid, let me call the doctor and ask him.” Sure enough the doctor approved the Benadryl and the nurse came in to give Davy the medicine. He was asleep in twenty minutes and he slept for 18 hours straight! When he woke up he was calm, all of his levels were normal, and we were released later that day. I rarely advocate the use of medication for children, but in this case the risk was worth the reward.
Again, I would like to express my gratitude for the hospital staff and those that work in medicine. I truly believe that you save lives every day and I thank you for it. That being said, my experiences in the hospital and with the medical community have led me to believe that there is plenty of room for improvement. This is understandable as the human body is an incredibly complex machine! I am not a medical doctor, but common sense told me that a three year-old pulling his hair out is not normal and that something needed to be done. In the case of my ex-wife, I am still not sure what happened. Perhaps she was given too much anesthesia or perhaps she had a reaction to the proper dose. No explanation was offered and to be honest we were so focused on our new baby boy we never followed up with the hospital or thought to question what had happened until much later. One would think that there would have been some sort of documentation or report generated for such an incident…it makes me wonder how many of these types of things happen on a regular basis and go undocumented. If I get into an accident take me to the hospital, but I try to avoid the medical institutions as much as possible. I have lost faith in the medical model outside of emergency care.