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One Size Fits All Medical Solutions Suck

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One of the concepts (and there are MANY) from My Big Fat Greek Wedding which I relate to is the father's obsession with the ubiquitous usage of Windex as a one size fits all medical solution. My Russian father similarly resorted to his go-to resolution to remedy many health ailments: RUBBING ALCOHOL. If I got a bite, a scratch, a rash, a pimple, the solution was always ALCOHOL.

My husband pointed out a red welt on his neck which resembled a mosquito bite gone rogue, but it had started to develop a red circle around it and I worried about Lyme Disease. (I curse my freshman decision to take the senior-level "Human Infectious Diseases: From Aids to Influenza" class, where my final 20-page term paper was on Lyme Disease.)

I called my father and mentioned the questionable red mound growing on my husband's neck. "Maybe it's a spider bite," my father theorized. "Or maybe he scratched off a mosquito bite and it got infected. Did you see a tick?"

"He didn't see a tick but thought maybe he brushed it off before he noticed what it was."

I was worried about a spider bite. My husband's brother-in-law got bitten by a black recluse spider and within days he was in the emergency room getting a baseball-sized chunk cut out of his leg, which they reassured him was way better than an amputation or death.

My father didn't waste a beat in his answer. As I prepared to chime in with his "Alcohol" response, he threw me a curveball. "Iodine."

"What? Not alcohol?"

"Go get iodine right now, put it in the middle and it'll kill anything that's in there. Right now. Go get it."

The orange of Iodine trumps the last two decades of the clear alcohol. Before orange or clear, though, there was bright green "zelionka," a dilute free alcoholic solution effective against gram-positive bacteria sold as a topical antiseptic in Russia. I always recognized fellow immigrant kids by seeing the green liquid covering their cuts and scabs.

His one-size-fits-all solution isn't so far removed from the current trend of healthcare in our culture. The profusion of pharmaceutical commercials on TV convince us we need the latest vitamin, antibiotic, vaccine, cream, anti-depressant, or anti-anxiety drugs. Pharmaceuticals want to make sure we are so numb we forget to stop taking the pills. Physical and emotional pain are all part of the complexity of being alive, but in our culture, we're being taught we need drugs as much as we need Coca-Cola and donuts; because theoretically, they will make our lives better, easier, more euphoric.

I've deduced the pharmaceutical representatives who sell prednisone hit the drug lottery. Prednisone is the hospital's rubbing alcohol (or iodine as this year mandates).

This year I've had to take my son and my husband to the emergency room. My son had an allergic reaction to something they couldn't identify but because his breathing wasn't compromised, they weren't worried and gave him a week's worth of prednisone. My husband got Bell's palsy and for his ailment, which they described as a "differential diagnosis," meaning they use the process of elimination to make sure it's nothing deadly and give it their best guess. There is no real treatment for the Bell's Palsy, but since most Americans have become accustomed to a prescription solution to everything, they gave him a prescription for two weeks of prednisone! My father had to take his 11-year-old son to the hospital because he woke up with a wheezing cough, complaining he was having a hard time breathing. After the hospital verified he was getting 100% oxygen, they said it "may be" croup, but they're not sure, but just in case, here's a prescription for ... wait for it... prednisone.

The main problem with the "one solution fits all" mentality is it doesn't factor in the billions of differences between humans. The way our bodies will respond to medicine, to food, to exercise, to stress is unique. There are as many responses as there are humans and yet it's impossible to personalize medical solutions so scientists rely on the majority.

When my daughter was four months old I brought her in for a well-visit to a new pediatrician. The doctor spent five minutes with my baby, avoided eye contact and began to spew the same rhetoric she repeated to anyone who stepped in her office. She quoted numbers from a chart rather than look into my daughter's bright eyes, observe her supple skin, or react to the baby's vocal responses (she said "hi" at four months). She was perfect but the pediatrician warned her weight "may be in danger of one day falling off the charts." (Note my six-year-old is in the 99th percentile for height and weight and has been for most of her life). It was at this doctor's visit when I lost faith in healthcare and my trips to the prednisone-distributing emergency rooms re-confirmed it.

I'll keep WebMd bookmarked, my Merck Medical Manual on my desk, and my title of Dr. G because no one will know or take care of my body - or my children's bodies - like I will - and it's really not any one else's responsibility to do so. I am our family doctor and for now, I'll take iodine over prednisone.