The first time I read about the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was as a youth, but I had enough opinions by then that I suspected foul play.
Wasn’t this yet another colonial bullshit-science institution designed to other non-Europeans and contribute to the ceaseless humiliation and exploitation of Africans in particular? Why couldn’t medicine just be medicine for all places and people?
And so an uninformed prejudice was born and stashed deep in my psyche.
Eventually, I started really getting into medicine as an interest, having accepted that my aversion to mathematics and general disinterest in chemistry would curtail a career in science, technology, engineering and maths.
By the way, the arts/science divide is an artificial one and the current push for STEM should cease its disparaging of the arts and humanities and social sciences because that is detrimental to all. Rant over.
Medicine is fascinating, and I advocate learning as much as you can stand about it for one simple reason: Informed treatment. The more you know, the more you can help your doctors help you, the likelier you are to have a healthy lifestyle aided by health sciences.
We’ve all been through some gnarly stuff at some point in our lives, right fam? And a good doctor/medical staff aided by a good patient make a team able to get through challenges.
Case in point: Several weeks ago, I turned up shivering and grumpy at my doctor’s office, feeling quite unlike myself. I know my usual ailments quite intimately at this point in my life and this was not one of them. After some tests, my doctor sat me down in his consultation room and asked me if I had any suspicions what this might be.
I guessed correctly on the first try, it was dengue fever. There had been stories going around the city that an epidemic was upon us, but no formal announcement as to public measures at the time. But, I have the Internet.
Dengue is a viral infection, there is no medicine that “cures” it per se. You have to shiver and ache and get to the doctor sooner rather than later, hoping for the best. I got off lightly: No need for intravenous support, just a box of Panadol and strict orders to keep hydrated, eat as well as possible and sleep to let my body fight.
Oh, and the controversial-in-Tanzania Ayurvedic papaya extract capsules to help the body fight. No, modern science has no idea exactly how the compounds work, but India has been using this medical intervention for centuries.
This gave me plenty of time to revisit my youthful misreading of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I am thankful as well for the plant-based native medical wisdom of people outside the narrow confines of modern medicine.
O humble and plentiful papaya tree: Thank you too. And thank you to the mosquitoes in our lives as well for reminding us that the idea of humans having dominion over all things is a fragile illusion.
Mother Nature loves all of her children… in a most brutal manner. She is the kind who says, “I brought you into this world, Child, and I can take you right out!” when She feels like it.
Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report. E-mail: [email protected]