Saturday, October 8, 2011

Illness and Injury on the Homestead

About a year ago, our elderly cat, Sam came home with the top 2 inches of his tail bent at an odd angle. He wasn't in pain, the skin wasn't broken. Ironically, it was almost comical — it looked like his tail had been slammed in a door, like a cartoon character. Since he wasn't in pain I thought I would give it a few days and just observe. But, the following morning, I opened the door to Sam sitting there smiling at me, with the top 2 inches of his tail hanging off. There was blood everywhere and the tip was just dangling. After my initial reaction (repeated screams of "OH MY GOD!" and slamming the door in his face) I gathered a few supplies and with the assistance of Eldest Boy's girlfriend, performed surgery. Remarkably, Sam didn't exhibit any signs of pain. I snipped off the hanging piece of tail, cleaned, disinfected, and bandaged the wound. And decided to wait and see. I cleaned the tail daily, looking for signs of infection, but it healed beautifully. 

Injuries and illness on the homestead — an inevitable occurrence when you have kids and/or animals. At some point, someone will get sick or hurt. 

I grew up in a family where we never went to the doctor. That's a bit of an exaggeration. But, my mom will attest, we didn't go often. Actually, after our pediatrician passed away when I was 10, I don't remember going to the doctor again until I was in college. 

It wasn't a fear of doctors, or even the cost. (Back then everyone had major medical insurance; our doctor's visits weren't covered and only cost $5). It was part of that can-do, diy attitude that my parents, particularly my dad, had. With a few medical supplies and a little patience and care, most illness or minor injuries could be attended to at home.  

We live in a time of expensive health care premiums and cheap co-pays. When paying a lot for the insurance and only $15 to see the doc it's easy to justify seeking medical attention when someone has a cold or a minor boo-boo. Plus, we've been brought up believing that only the experts can fix our problems; we don't trust our instincts to care for our own bodies. 

Please don't think that we're one of those families that shuns medical care at all costs. We actually go to the doctor for annual checkups and everyone in our household has received some type of medical attention in the past two years.  But, having had a child with cancer, one with high blood pressure, and one with an ongoing gastrointestinal issue, I have learned that the white coats don't know everything. They are making educated guesses through a process of elimination. And sometimes, while having great knowledge, they have terrible instincts.

I will almost always try a home remedy before calling the doctor or vet. Oftentimes, a good cleansing/disinfecting, more sleep, or a restricted diet for a day or two makes things right as rain. I also use some simple home remedies: ginger for tummy aches, a massage for a headache, pepper tea for a stuffy nose, stretching for back pain, warm tea bags for eye irritation, and the old standby of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) for a muscle injury. If pain persists, or infection sets in, then I call the doctor.

I have learned to trust my instincts. I observe my children, husband, and animals when healthy so that I can be fully aware when something goes wrong. When the Boy is agitated and crotchety for a few hours, I know he either needs more sleep or a blood sugar fix. If his agitation persists after a snack and a rest time, I know a fever is coming on. When Husband has a certain look around his eyes and seems drawn inward, I know he's in pain. With the animals, poor appetite or lethargy can be signs of illness. Being fully aware leads to early intervention — starting the healing process before things get out of hand. And sometimes it means calling the doctor or vet.

Just a note: I found a video that I think is a good stepping off point for someone interested in learning herbal remedies. Personally, I find many of the books I read vague on actually how to use herbs. Yeah, ginger is good for digestion, but what do I do with it? This video contains lots of good introductory information:

Way of the Herbal Ninja: Using 17 Herbs You Already Have in the Kitchen

I'm still weeding my way through the rest of the website, but I think it will be a great resource for me!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for the comments!