Rendered Fat Content


Ernest Board: Albucasis blistering a patient in the hospital at Cordova. (Circa 1900).
"It's just there, best avoided, forever poised ready to serve somebody else."

I called in sick yesterday, a rare occurrence. Like anyone, I tend to work right through sensations of illness, never knowing if I'm sick or just tired, or both. My basic strategy for treating any apparent anomaly amounts to giving it a day or two to see if it gets any worse and if it gets any worse, to give it another day or two to see if my condition further degrades, the upshot being that I almost never reach a point where I seriously consider consulting with anyone other than The Muse, who maintains her own superstitions and folk remedies. A doctor's visit requires the rough equivalent of an act of a divided Congress to schedule and these generally amount to me failing to describe and the doctor blindly prescribing, with me reporting side effects resulting from the last round of prescriptions. I tend to spend much of my doctor face time trying to convince the nurse practitioner why I'm not a good candidate for her current pet treatment. Even if I have sleep apnea, a condition I've yet to muster a belief in, I would never consent to wearing an electric muzzle to bed. A man must somehow maintain his dignity. I contend that I'm not sick, a condition modern medicine struggles to cope with.

Still, I do have my days when whatever ails me actually ails me.
It's been more than a decade since I had to actually call in sick, a procedure I always felt embarrassed to engage with. Merely reporting even a temporary disability always felt like an act of acquiescence when even a head cold seems to demand a decent defiance, even if (and perhaps especially if) defiance does no good. I'm the product of a self-made culture, one convinced of its own albeit temporary omnipotence, and giving an inch seems roughly equivalent to simply giving up, something socialists might do, but a free, self-respecting, self-reliant people never, ever would. I stiff-armed back surgery for over a decade, working through periods of sublime pain where a brilliant white light might overtake my entire visual field. I continued with whatever spiel I was delivering without disclosing that I was having an out of body experience, proud of my extreme forbearance. My usual prescription amounts to patience and tolerance, in more or less equal measure, repeated until hostilities cease or death, whichever comes first.

Friends and colleagues seemed to rush to my defense, wishing me well and offering well-intended advice. I thought I defended myself rather gallantly against most of it. I had not announced my day off to garner sympathy, since I make it a point of honor to never extend very much sympathy to myself. I graciously appreciated every comment because I genuinely appreciated the thoughts expressed, though I wasn't prepared to actually swallow any of it. I was apparently suffering the effects of an ill-conceived sandwich, a once in this lifetime's experience. As usual, I figured a day or two of waiting to respond would prove adequate treatment, and it did. Should I ever suffer from something serious and immediate, I'm most likely to become a statistic. Short of slicing off a hunk of a finger, I've not yet felt a compelling need to visit an ER, and during This Damned Pandemic, I'd never seriously consider it. Who would I have to become to believe that my needs were superior to those suffering from Covid-19, even if I was suffering from Covid-19? Our HealthScare System utterly relies upon an underlying selflessness in order to succeed. If people like me started demanding service from it, it could not sustain service for a week. Here, medical care has always been someone else's right, and the responsibility of every other citizen to avoid engaging with it at almost any cost, if only because engaging with it was always sure to cost more than most could ever justify as a reasonable expense. Ruinous results almost guaranteed, that's the usual therapy. Oh, and the victim's always blamed, whatever the disorder.

The medical field seems little changed since The Middle Ages. Then like now, those trained in the field generally understood it. Those without an advanced degree from Johns Hopkins might never understand the first thing about it, for the field, while rooted in science, never was rooted in what's known as settled science. One could always seek a second opinion, even a third, for the variety of perspectives seemed, to most of us, basically infinite. Sects of one sort or another fiercely defend their understandings of HealthScare and consider all others quackery. Consensus seems absent on even something as seemingly unquestionable as a virus, dissenting arguments as numerable as a dodecahedron's faces. We're making science as we practice it, not merely mimicking Albucasis' instructions. I'm forever discovering something that's slipped into common practice when I wasn't looking, though I admit that I don't very often go searching for answers because I do not usually carry very many questions about HealthyScare. It's just there, best avoided, forever poised ready to serve somebody else.

I'm all well now. Thanks for your concerns and suggestions.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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