Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I Should Have Gone to Med School

We were told before coming to China to bring any and all medications that we might need for any ailment. Did that. Had a suitcase full of them. But there are certain conditions that require a medical visit and prescription that you just can't anticipate. Which means visiting a Chinese medical clinic. Which means hours of confusion and worry and frustration on both sides, not simply because of language, but because of a fundamental disconnect between the ways we view medicine.

For instance, I happen to worship at the altar of the antibiotic. I do not use them needlessly, I harangue those who do, I absolutely want them to remain effective because they are, to my mind, the silver bullet for so many situations. I am open to the idea of other complementary treatments but would never ever substitute actual medicine tested via the scientific method for mashed tree bark or some such substance. Hence the disconnect with the medical situation in China.

At least in the clinic that I have visited, and in speaking to others who have had to visit others, there is a persistent belief in certain folk remedies that seems to hinder or prevent the rapid and effective cure of certain conditions. Obviously, in some cases a slower hand is warranted. In others, why would you get better in 10 days if you could get better in 4? And if one more person tells me that keeping my baby in 5 layers of clothing will cure bronchitis, I will completely lose my noodle. Antibiotics cure bronchitis. Medicine cures bronchitis. Mittens do not. They don't hurt. But they don't cure bronchitis. And no I will NOT be feeding her the green tea herbal thing you gave me, even if you are a doctor. I, as an adult, wouldn't randomly take an herbal concoction in a foreign country, and I'm d*mn sure not giving to my baby. Especially when I can't read the bottle and the one English word in it did not show any results on google. Stupid benchmark maybe, but I figure any kind of medicine or name brand would show up somehow.

So every visit to the clinic has been a small exercise in frustration, although to be fair, with good intentions on both sides. But I'm just so over it. I'm tired of being asked if I'm keeping a hat on her head, whether I keep her warm in the bath, etc etc. Yes, yes! So can we have the medicine now?! You know--to ease her symptoms and cure the disease? So she doesn't develop pneumonia? So I don't get a case of it too?! Please?!! Then it occurred to me: I bet they don't have the meds. They don't have a stash of cipro and amoxicillin on hand, so they are relying on all this other stuff because they have had to. Luckily, we are getting the meds we need because we are westerners, but I am willing to bet that the local residents are simply wearing hats, staying warm and drinking green tea mixes.

All told, I never thought I'd say this, but I miss my Rite Aid. I just need a pharmacy that sells actual products that have actual active ingredients in them, like hydrocortisone cream and cough syrup; not bear bile powder and shark fin essence. I swear, for my own cough, I would literally spend a hundred dollars for a bottle of robitussin, so desperate am I. I kid you not: My kingdom for some robitussin. I have never once before in my life been grateful to my core for a pharmacy on seemingly every corner where anything I need is available, sometimes 24 hours a day. I'll never take that for granted again.


Shane said...

First off.. I love the blog.. super funny and enjoyable... (dubiousquality.blogspot.com sent me) but I have to burst your robotusin bubble.. do a google search for cough syrup study and you'll find a study or two showing that cough syrups do nothing. And the funny thing is I actually read this study 1/2 way through a really bad cold and placebo effect went away completely and the bottle of cough syrup did nothing for me..

Richie Grana said...

I''m not familiar with this subject but interesed.