Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Local Farmacy

Growing up on a farm miles from the nearest medical help had its challenges. It wasn't just that the nearest hospital was an hour away. The nearest doctors were forty-five minutes away, and their skills were so minimal they were locally known as "The Horse Doctors." And if you remember from a previous post we had no ambulance service. The local undertaker's hearse doubled as our farming community's emergency transportation when the need arose. What this meant was you had to learn to make do when it came to medical treatment.

I was reminded of this last week when a friend was telling me about a medical issue she was experiencing. I listened, then suggested a course of treatment. When I hung up the phone I was suddenly hit with the thought "you are your mother's daughter." In this context it wasn't a particularly comforting thought. Here's why...

My mom had quite a reputation in our farming neighbourhood as being the "go to" person for medical advice and/or drugs. Lest you judge my mom, or her "clients", please keep in mind two things. My opening paragraph, and the fact we are talking about the 1960s. The well of stories runs quite deep when it comes to my mom, but the following is one of my favourites.

One day a neighbour dropped by for coffee. (This was a common thing when I was growing up. People didn't schedule in visits, they simply showed up at your door.) Wilene, or "Wally" as she was referred to by her husband, was in a state of panic. My mom listened as Wilene told my mom she had been invited to play bridge with a group of women that evening, and she was worried she wasn't up to their high caliber of play. One woman in particular was known to be quite nasty if she thought you made a bad play. She just didn't know if she could go through with it.

My mom reassured Wilene, telling her that she had "just the thing" to help her get through the evening. Several years earlier the doctor had given my parents a prescription for some tranquilizers to help them quit smoking. (In case you were wondering why we referred to them as The Horse Doctors, this would be a clue.)

My parents each tried a pill, and decided not only did it made them feel weird, it hadn't made them want to quit smoking. They stopped taking them, but kept the pills because on a farm you just never know when something will come in handy. It turns out they were put to good use on our dog, who frequently had losing battles with the local porcupines. My dad would give the dog a tranquilizer, then remove the quills with a pair of pliers. (Not only were doctors in short supply, so were veterinarians.)

My mom handed a couple of the tranquilizers to Wilene and told her they were sure to help. A few hours later the phone rang. Now to appreciate this next bit you need to have a bit of background on Wilene's husband Ken. Ken was a gentle giant of a man. He was very tall, wore jumpsuits (again, this was the 1960s), and spoke in a slow, calm voice no matter what was happening around him. When my mom answered the phone Ken was on the other end of the line, his calm voice giving no indication as to the events going on in the background.

"Thelma, this is Ken. What did you give Wally? I can't get her out of the bathtub."

Of course my mom had to confess her part in Wilene's "trip" to the bathtub. There were no hard feelings over the incident, and over the years they had many a good laugh over it. Needless to say, Wilene didn't make it to her bridge game that night. And my mom didn't stop dispensing advice and drugs. The fact was, even with this small blot on her "practicing medicine without a license" career, she was still a better bet than The Horse Doctors.

And remember the beautiful handspun yarn my friend gave me for my birthday? Here it is, knit into toasty warm socks.




They are even prettier in person than in the photo, which doesn't really do the colours justice.

19 comments:

  1. That was a lovely story about your mum's medical interventions and I'm sure she helped and comforted many over the years. The socks are cool.
    Patricia x

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    1. I think she helped more people than she hurt. Ha!

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  2. A wonderful story about your mum giving medical advice, it's hard to imagine being so far from doctors and ambulances. I'm sure the advice to your friend was much more effective than the advice to Wilene! At least Wilene didn't have a bad session at bridge that day!
    Sarah x

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    1. Now there is a medical clinic about twenty minutes away, and if there is a serious accident or emergency a media-vac helicopter is sent and the patient is flown to the hospital. The days of the hearse are long gone. :-)

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  3. What a funny story! Your mom sounds a lot like my grandmother, who used to save medications and hand them out to people. My grandparents had owned a pet store and had tetracycline for the birds when they had illnesses. She would often try to give it to people when she thought they'd like to have antibiotics for some reason. Yikes!

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    1. Ha! My mom had tetracycline she got in Mexico and handed that out as well. They definitely sound a lot alike!

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  4. Haha, I bet Wally enjoyed the evening even though she missed the bridge game. Like your mom, I don't believe in that whole "don't take someone else's prescription" thing. :)

    This post is a huge coincidence--I'm planning a post titled "Dr. Ricademus".

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    1. Great minds think alike. :-) And to be honest, I don't think Wally remembered much about the evening.

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  5. This sounds a bit familiar actually ... my father grew up in a DIY medical family ... he has some very odd ideas about what cures what, and soap poultices, horse liniment, and 'salts' feature large. I suppose I should be thankful he didn't feed us daily spoonfuls of brimstone and treacle!

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    1. Several people have commented that they had DIY parents and grandparents. We are not alone! Have you seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The father in that show "cures" everything with a window cleaning spray. :-)

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    1. Thanks Sue! My friend did a very nice job spinning the fibre. The socks are going to be super warm - so warm that i am saving them for next winter.

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  7. Oh, goodness! HAHA. I can imagine Wally's nerves were quite settled after taking two tranquilizers! :-D

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    1. Too settled to play bridge, that's for sure!

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  8. Great story, I love to hear of "wise women", like you say she did more good than harm which is more you can say for some qualified doctors. As a midwife I am often running into "wise "and extremely experienced women who can tell a junior obstetrician a thing or two.....

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    1. Wisdom comes with age, but in the case of where I grew up, so far from medical help, it also grew out of necessity. Do you find doctors are becoming more willing to listen to midwives and nurses?

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    2. some will but generally they are rather arrogant know it alls!........

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  9. Oh my goodness, too funny!

    How is Alexandra?

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    1. Thanks for asking about Alexandra, Lisa. She is a bit better, but it will take another week or two for the drugs to really kick in and do their job. She is off work until then, and still not feeling great. Hopefully in a couple weeks all will be back to normal. Or as normal as it ever gets for her. Maybe she needs a bit of my mom's "treatment. " :-)

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