Friday, June 20, 2014


Health care is somewhat problematic in the area of our Mission, kind of like the Pope is somewhat Catholic. There are many good doctors here... OK, some good doctors here, trying hard to do the right things with limited resources.  However, we fight frequent uphill battles in making sure our missionaries get proper care.
Luckily, the most frequent maladies are bothersome, but not life-threatening.  There is the Inca Two Step, from eating and drinking contaminated food and water.
Yes, those are cows, and yes, those are carrots.
There is Oh No! My Big Infected Toe! from walking so much and getting wet feet,
and wearing weird shoes, (which are also common here).
With our unusual geography, there is the Basic Lack of Oxygen Thing, which almost always goes away in several days as the body adjusts, with some grumbling.  These Sister missionaries seem to be OK.
While frequent trips to powder one's nose can be a problem, the opposite is also true, as especially the Sisters try not to drink too much (adequate facilities during the day while away from the room are uncommon) but meanwhile are fed a lot of rice.
Fleas and mosquitoes also try to impede the work here.
Luckily, every person in our part of Peru believes himself or herself to be invested with great medical wisdom. While the root cause of maladies may not be clear to 21st-Century medicine, there is little room for doubt among these Doctors of Peruvian Medicine (MDPs).
For instance:  You cannot eat fish if you have a cut.  DON'T DO IT!
According to the nice ladies that feed them (the "pensionistas") the belly pain and gastroenteritis that our missionaries all suffer from occasionally is because they all have "gastritis," not because they, the pensionistas, used the same knife to cut the vegetables and the raw chicken...
Of course, it is clear that getting cold causes paralysis.  DON'T DO IT!  (Hold it!  How about all those Swedish people that seem to moving OK? I dunno...)
Drinking anything cold at night, or eating dairy products after dark can be catastrophic.  DON'T DO IT!! (Note:  though there was no record of it, I'm sure these folks were dead within minutes.)
It is a well-known fact that tomato seeds are deadly poisonous, and must be removed before ingesting said fruit.  DON'T EAT THEM!!
We have heard from many sources, so it must be true, about the guy in Lima who opened his refrigerator and fell DEAD, DEAD I TELL YOU! when the cold fumes hit his body.  DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT DOING THIS!!
The MDP's are also clear that washing dishes in warm water causes arthritis, so STAY AWAY FROM THAT ONE, TOO!!  That better be cold water, kid, or you're toast!  Only, don't let the toast touch the other food, or you're a gonner from that also.
The remedies suggested by the amateur practitioners that surround us here can seem odd, but obviously work.  For instance, for belly pain, one simply has to urinate in one's hand, and rub it on the belly. Twice a day for three weeks. Duh!!
For ear aches, applying the same agent to the affected part is clearly indicated.
Various poultices made from various animal, er, outcastings are also popular.  Something about the power of the smell overpowering the illness.  I dunno.  I won't go any further on this one.  And you're welcome.
While the Andean version of Montezuma's revenge is frequent, cures for it are even more widespread.  A common one is to give a laxative (excuse me?!) as obviously this empties everything out and gets rid of the problem.  Obviously!
Though modern icky commercial Western medicine has selfishly hidden the truth about the common cold, Peruvians have no qualms about sharing the cure.  One simply has to take the biggest, freshest egg from a firstborn hen, and starting with the forehead, rub it in a circular motion around the face, head, nose, etc.  If it's really a bad cold, you may need to do this to the chest and neck also.
OK, fine, but the deal is made real by then throwing the egg as far away as possible.
Oh, yes, I should remind you of an important caveat.  If the egg breaks in mid-air, RUN, as the illness may return with a vengeance.  Sometimes, two or three eggs are necessary.
As in any other legitimate branch of medicine, MDP's will occasionally be stumped as to the diagnosis, and may need to take the drastic step of The Cuy Test.  Cuy is Peruvian for guinea pig.
Forget your MRI´s, CT scans and other hocus pocus.  Pass this little guy around the body of the infirm individual several times, then cut the cuy open.  The illness of the afflicted will be clearly seen in the insides of the animal.  Meanwhile, the side benefit is that fried cuy is delicious, so even if the patient doesn't get better, you'll have a great meal.
So there you have it.  We may not be richly blessed in conventional medical practice, but luckily the locals fill in.
May you stay healthy next time you're in the area.
Dave & Paula 

1 comment:

Patti said...

I was sharing some of the DON'T DO IT items with my kids who served in Brazil. Apparently the same health rules apply there, which is why one son waited until he got back to the states to fix a hernia. Good move.