Alternative medicine vs conventional medicine – people can get really, really ugly when “debating” this topic (if debating is shouting so loudly at one another that no one hears what anyone is saying). Guess I’m the type to let everyone have at it in the playground, while I walk away recognizing that all that matters is following the path I’ve chosen – and knowing my decisions are based on research and personal experience…not because someone else is telling me to believe this or that. Our health is and should always be a personal journey, where we are in control of our bodies.
Ok…how’s that for an intro? I’ve said before that there are times when I am grateful for aspects of conventional medicine – that there are benefits to both under different circumstances. But for normal ailments, I always go the route of alternative…always.
So here is a very, very recent story. This happened to someone very close to me just months ago (and nope, it wasn’t me…because I wouldn’t have been in the MD’s office now, would I?) 🙂 So for the sake of anonymity, because we KNOW it wouldn’t have been me, let’s call the patient “Robin” – which is, of course, ME. Confused yet? Geeeez.
So Robin goes to a specialist for a skin problem (a sensitive patch of skin plus a small tear that won’t heal). Nothing major but the whole area is very sensitive to touch, etc. Robin has health insurance, so she goes to the specialist recommended by her general practitioner. Has a nice consult, nothing “alarming” to note. Consult is SHORT, doctor thinks it is a skin condition (which is later discovered to involve unbearable nerve sensitivity) and doctor decides to “help it along” with some silver nitrate to cauterize the small wound/tear on the skin. If it doesn’t heal, come back in 30 days.
LET’S STOP HERE FOR A MOMENT. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS PROCEDURE, WHICH TOOK SECONDS, WAS NEVER DISCUSSED…IT WAS JUST “DONE” – WHY? BECAUSE SHE HAD HEALTH INSURANCE, OF COURSE…LET’S MOVE ON…
So Robin gets home and the pain should have subsided by now. But unfortunately, it is WORSE. Much worse. She suffers through what feels like a first degree burn for weeks, then insists on going back for another “consult.” The sore is gone, that part worked though it was just a tiny cut, but the skin around it is on fire. The doctor decides, without testing, that it must be her initial thought of a certain skin condition, offers some steroid cream OR the option to have surgery to excise that part of the skin. That’s it.
Frustrated, Robin looks up the condition to find that putting silver nitrate on the area, which has 500% more nerve sensitivity, was about the most wrong thing that ever could have been done…ever. More reading would show that this condition can be brought on by various irritants, etc. and can take time to heal on its own (much longer now that silver nitrate made the condition worse). So in the end she is treating it herself.
SO…YOU READY FOR THE COST OF THIS? $800 DOLLARS!!!! Of course, with health insurance, she will “only” have to pay $100. For two visits totaling 30 minutes duration and placing some silver nitrate on a small tear in the doctor’s office…and making it absolutely worse instead of better. By the way…this took place at one of the top hospitals in the nation, in central Illinois.
Also, if this was the only story that had ever happened like this, you could brush it aside perhaps. But it isn’t. Back to the title of this article, I choose alternative medicine vs conventional medicine because this happens again and again. Many times I had to tell the doctor to test for a diagnosis (and I was correct). I had two surgeries where they just “took out the useless part” instead of finding alternatives (will regret it forever). I’ve had friends and family members who got deathly ill on prescriptions, and it was obvious it was due to the prescription, but they kept taking it until they got so sick that their doctor finally suggested they should quit it…and they got 100% better (didn’t listen to their own bodies, left it up to someone who sees them 10 minutes every 8 weeks). Short visits, masking or removing the symptoms via drugs/surgeries and the worst part of all…not listening to the patient.
On and on it goes. If I put up every personal story where this happened, this would no longer be an rv blog…it would be an alternative medicine blog. I refuse to do a blog about all of this because it is mentally draining. All I can say is the answers are out there. Except for major emergencies, there is little I would use conventional medicine for. If you want to know, this includes things like diabetes, autoimmune disease and even cancer (unless removing a minor growth, like skin cancer).
Here are just a FEW horrors that absolutely did happen to me, back in the good old days of health insurance:
- I spent weeks putting together data to show the ENT specialist I was going to see that I believed I had Ramsay Hunt syndrome. He dismissed that idea within two minutes and left me in tears saying it “could be a tumor” and wanted to order a CT scan. I actually walked out on him and found a doc who was able to diagnose I had Ramsay Hunt.
- A med school friend, in the late 1990s, told me he thought I might have endometriosis, being incorrectly diagnosed as “irritable bowel” (a diagnosis I now feel doesn’t even exist). My HMO doctor refused to check for this. A few years later, I had to have a total hysterectomy, including ovaries, removed…they were covered in endometriosis. Had my doctor listened, we could have caught it early. Sidenote: I am not going to get into politics here, but those hoping for nationalized health care need to recognize this particular problem will absolutely get worse…you will never be allowed to go in to your doctor and say “test me for this…I think I have this.”
- Gall bladder out in college…a “must!” Absolutely could have tried alternative treatments to successfully handle the stones in addition to learning ways to avoid their existence in the first place. You actually do need your gall bladder and the lifetime of side effects can be maddening. Beware of the “let’s just take it out” syndrome plaguing our hospitals today.
- Dentist refused to see me if I didn’t allow annual xray, even though I had one the year before. Forcing costly, unnecessary procedures on me because “I was covered” through my insurance. If I didn’t have insurance, I wonder if he would have given me the option???????? (There are holistic dentists, by the way, who agree a zap with radiation isn’t necessary every year).
- And let’s not forget I can’t remember many doctor visits that didn’t involve leaving with a prescription or antibiotic. I can’t remember ever being asked “do you want an xray, blood work, CT scan?” All anyone wanted was my insurance card, then I had no choices afterward.
So I’m not losing sleep over lack of health insurance. If something major happens to me, like an appendix rupturing, I’ll do my best to work out the ridiculous, insane cost with the hospital. But I’m not abusing the system – I’m getting health care on my own, paying out of pocket, preventing illness and getting answers instead of suppressing symptoms. That, to me, is what medicine should be about.
That $100 copay for the $800 “procedure” could have been used on a consult with a holistic MD or integrative MD who combines the best of both and tosses out the garbage that plagues both types of medicines as well. Unfortunately, many people try to cash in on the alternative medicine craze, producing junk and giving false hope to people. And conventional medicine, in my opinion, is absolutely frightening anymore.
So a final tip – if you have perceived bias against alternative medicine due to the bad press it gets from pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies…or just from surfing the web (even wikipedia has tremendous bias) then I simply suggest you take control of the reigns and begin to learn about it on your own.
Alternative medicine is too general a term…people toss in junk herb scams and ebooks, quack “holistic practitioners” and other negatives, which can blind you to the quality health care out there. Start with integrative MDs or holistic MDs and work from there. These doctors ARE MDs who believe there are some serious faults with conventional medicine, so they combine alt and conventional medicine and look at the whole body instead of individual parts.
Of course, we can all need an emergency appendectomy or something of that nature – but you can afford prevention, treatment and optimal health through paying to see these MDs on your own. Don’t worry about the insurance stigma, they are well aware insurance companies won’t cover your visit! If only the conventional doctors I used to see were so flexible with payment and aware of the financial hardship.
Speaking of insurance…if you are feeling down because you can’t afford health insurance (and who can?), here is a little “pick me up” just for you:
- Can’t afford health insurance? What about the copays like in my example? $100 for just a consult and quick procedure? I know people who work in hospitals, with the best health insurance, who are left with having to pay $500 for some “routine tests.” The problem is too big now…you just cannot afford the insurance, the meds or the copays, so just give yourself a break and realize it is out of your hands.
- The good news about not having health insurance is that doctors won’t keep zapping you with radiation or prescribing tons of pharmaceuticals, because they know you can’t afford it. No wasteful/dangerous tests to pay for.
Even if you have a diagnosis…an autoimmune disease, diabetes or other disorders, try it. You might be surprised at how liberating the outcome can be when you experience other options outside of conventional medicine.
One other personal note, because I’ve heard the myths out there before…I in no way believe my alternative medicine lifestyle will make me immune to horrific disease or even premature death. I started this lifestyle after 30 years of “traditional living” so the damage can already be done. In addition, there are other external factors now (air, water, cell phones, food) that can impact overall health, which are hard to avoid. I don’t have the secret to eternal life and, quite frankly, am not sure I would want it!! I’m just doing my best each day – and I know I never felt “cured” of problems until I left conventional medicine behind and started seeing doctors who looked at the whole picture instead of my health insurance policy.
Thinking outside of the box ideas on health insurance to follow in further posts…
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