Wednesday, August 19, 2015


It’s easy enough to complain about the medical industry. I do it all of the time. Let’s face it, it is just too expensive. Medical school is too expensive, pharmacy costs are too high, Doctors charge too much, and hospitals are ridiculous. This column chooses to look at something else about the medical industry, however, that I perhaps don’t talk about enough.

Today I want to talk about the miracle of modern medicine. As of this writing I am scheduled for shoulder replacement surgery. I have lived with shoulder pain for years and I hope to change all that very soon.

Let us consider medical miracle number one. The doctors can look inside my body with a little machine that takes pictures known as x-rays. They have another tool for a similar purpose known as the MRI procedure. That stands for magnetic resonance imaging. These have been around for so long that we seem to take them for granted, but it is a modern miracle. Next, they are going to be able to cause me to sleep like a baby through the entire two hour process. I will be having pleasant dreams while my surgeon will be doing his magic. I won’t bore you with the details because I don’t want to know either. It is sufficient to say it will involve some cutting and sewing up. Then they will wake me up from my dreams. I will then be in the hospital for three days being waited on hand and foot by cute little nurses. If what I have just described isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what a miracle is.

There is no doubt that I will be uncomfortable for some time, but healing will occur and I will be able to once again use my arm and shoulder as if nothing happened. I have been told that I will be able to play the piano and to play tennis. That would be good since I have never done either. They will prescribe pain killing medicine to make my recovery and my physical therapy doable. The medicine itself is yet another miracle.

I think about these things from time to time when I consider that I am living in the world in the twenty-first century. What if this was the 1800s? These modern procedures and medicines I described earlier would not be available. People with my shoulder problems just had to put up with it. If you needed pain medicine, you might have to chew on birch bark or bite down on a bullet. They may have been able to take your shoulder off, but they couldn’t put another one on for you. You would then have to live with one arm. A lot of people did. Unusable limbs were disposed of and folks lived with the situation.

Of course most didn’t live to be seventy-five like me. Just a few short years ago sixty-five was considered quite old. Today one of the fastest growing segments of our population is the eighty year olds and up. Not only are they still alive, they are hearty and healthy. They are active and doing things their predecessors would never have even dreamed of. Again, this is the gift of modern medicine.

Concerning the cost of modern medicine, I don’t have any answers for you. We all know it is too expensive. We rejoice in our healing and give thanks for our medicines. But we know it cannot go on forever. Someday soon there will be a reckoning. I hope I’m well by then.

Ron Scarbro

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