Saturday, October 27, 2007

Here's to your health


My mother has always said, “If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.” Her miracle ingredient to ensure success of this goal was milk of magnesia. According to her, it prevented or cured everything that could go wrong with our bodies. I’m sure in her mind, every hospital had a medicine storage facility where, directly in front of the antibiotics and narcotics, a blue bottle of Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia was no doubt prominently positioned. That blue bottle of chalky white repulsive potion was the bane of our otherwise idyllic childhood. We quickly learned never to complain of any kind of problem - neither acne, sore throat, nor chapped lips - in order to avoid the dreadful liquid. Whatever we had wrong with us would always pass (no pun intended) eventually, and Mother would attribute this extraordinary cure to that wonderful milk of magnesia. I don’t think she ever considered the probability that our little nuisance of a health snag would have gone away on its own anyway.

The older I become, I understand Mother’s driving ambition of health maintenance, although I take issue with the aforementioned unorthodox method. (That blue bottle has never entered my threshold since I became an adult. ANYTHING but that!) As a kid, I thought I was invincible, but now I know better. When I send annual Christmas greetings, one of my most consistent wishes has been good health, so my friends and relatives will be able to enjoy everything else life offers.

It’s kind of ironic that at the very time we Baby Boomers are finally seriously concerned about the well-being of our bodies, said bodies start a rapid process of deterioration. Chronic illnesses come in and make themselves at home for extended visits. Acute injuries (like my sister’s current back problem) make getting through a normal day almost impossible for several hours or a few weeks. Ed lives with diabetes, and after the doctors changed his medications last month, he has had a very frustrating time trying to adjust to the new medicine’s way of working in his body.

Health is on my mind these days because, as most of you know, I’m in the middle of studying for my Certified Medical Transcriptionist (CMT) exam. Every time I think of complaining about my body’s deficiencies, I read another chapter of a body system and my only recurring comment (besides “how will I ever learn all this stuff?!”) is that I wonder how our bodies manage to function so well for so long a time.

I divided my 7-week study plan into 4 body systems (chapters) per week, but I have found that keeping strictly with this outline is hard to do. Why? Because the “Cardiovascular System,” for example, cannot stand on its own, as it is linked with the “Nervous System” and the “Respiratory System.” Add in the muscles and bones involved, falling under the “Orthopedic System,” and you can’t completely isolate any part of the body so that it can be studied on its own. Everything is intertwined and inseparable.

So much depends on all these systems and parts working together, doing their jobs, day in and day out. The details of how the heart beats, its web of impulses and chambers and the electrical component, is so dependent on perfect timing that it is a miracle this cardiac muscle works for as long as it does. Considering the world we live in, I think that is remarkable.

When humans design products, for example, those products have a very limited life. I remember buying an expensive exercise machine once that had a 1-year warranty. One year? Someone designed and built that piece of machinery so poorly that they only guarantee it will work for one year??

Contrast this with the design of our bodies. Of course, cancer and other insidious diseases take their toll, but if you think about it, on the whole, the human body has an ingenious way of functioning and healing itself. It is a miraculous, intricate machine that usually lasts longer (especially if we take care of it) than anything you can buy at Wal-Mart. Sometimes I think we just need the reminder.

Oh, and by the way, Mother is 84 and still going strong. My sister has never had to take her to the hospital, she hasn’t fallen and broken any bones, and her mind is still sharp. I dare say when she turns 100 and a reporter questions her about her longevity, she will bring out that disgusting Blue Bottle. Oh, well. I might have to lay down my arms against the ole milk of magnesia. If it has truly kept my mother alive and well all these years, I owe it my eternal gratitude.

I still refuse to touch it, though. It is truly disgusting.

1 comment:

Joy said...

Had to call Mother at 10:20 tonight to read it to her! Makes my mouth quiver with fear . . .