In medicine, I’ve found that many people choose not to listen to their physicians, MDs and DOs alike. I have also found that many patients have issues with alcohol. They consume too much of it. They covet it. They go through withdrawals without it. All in all, they usually have some sort of problem with it, and I sympathize with them.
When I was younger, I, too, had problems both with listening to my M.D. and alcohol use. However, I am not referring to M.D. as in medical doctor, but M.D. as in mom and dad. Also, I am not referencing the ingestible form of alcohol which is ethanol, but rather, isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol. I didn’t completely neglect their advice or consume any of the isopropyl alcohol, but I did have a problem with them both. Let me explain.
Separating my childhood home and the adjacent “alternate” highway is a quarter-mile, unpaved driveway with a rather large hill located in the middle. As an adventurous child, I would attempt to ride my bicycle as fast as I could down this gravel-spiked road that caused me to become human Swiss cheese over the years.
Ignoring the advice of my M.D., who repeatedly told me to apply my topical prescription of knee pads for bicycle rides, I would estimate that twenty percent of these brave trips ended in injury. What caused most of the incidents was my bike’s front tire snagging on a large piece of gravel. It would happen before I had a chance to stop or even slow down. Engulfing the gravel like an estranged loved one, my knees would embrace the ground and cry scarlet tears down my legs. Scraped and bleeding, I would limp up to my house and quietly enter it.
The problem with my house was the alarm system. Every time the door opened, the alarm would beep twice as signals to my parents that one of their children had either exited or entered our home. After being injured and knowing very well that my M.D. had prescribed a topical dose of knee pads scheduled for bike rides, I wanted to sneak in my house and past my M.D. unnoticed. Unfortunately for me, my bedroom was located on the first floor all the way down the hall past the entrances to the kitchen, dining room and living room. Therefore, I could never quite make it to my room undetected. As soon as my parents would witness my pitiful appearance, they questioned my bike-riding ability and the location of my preventative prescriptions, and this is how my alcohol problem started.
My parents, bless their hearts, own and operate several industrial equipment firms. No one in my family is in any medically-related field. However, this did not mean that they were ever reluctant to give medical advice or provide treatment. With the nearest hospital located thirty minutes away and the relatively minor extent of my injuries, I was stuck with my resident M.D.
There was only one medication of choice for fresh wounds in the Boyette household, and it was isopropyl alcohol. To my daddy, isopropyl alcohol would cure anything. A scrape. A gaping wound. A broken arm. A flat tire. It didn’t matter. He always said, “Just go put a little alcohol on it, and you’ll be fine.”
I’m not saying that my parents were ever cruel in the slightest way; however, I would choose a knee pad-less bike wreck on gravel a thousand times over if I could escape the burning from isopropyl alcohol on my fresh patellar wounds. To lessen the burning and stinging of the rubbing alcohol, my mom would blow cool air on the wounds. Even though it burned and stung upon application, the isopropyl alcohol did distract me from the pain of the fall, but after the alcohol was gone, the underlying pain and wounds were still there.
During my twenty-three years of life, my parents have never run out of isopropyl alcohol. However, I’ve never actually seen them purchase it. Without fail, it is always just there in my parents’ bathroom waiting. As a fourth-year medical student, I have not yet learned of one disease, ailment, or condition that warrants isopropyl alcohol as a treatment modality, but my M.D.’s 23-year personal case study has yet to disprove this method of treatment.
All in all, I think there are several morals to this story:
1. Sometimes, you may have to deal with wounds (such as course work, grades and clerkships) getting worse before they get better.
2. While alcohol (of any sort) may temporarily distract you from the pain in your life, the wounds will still be there when the effects of the alcohol dissipate. Therefore, it is better to treat your wounds carefully and avoid alcohol as a solution.
3. Don’t try to escape the advice of your D.O.s or M.D.s (moms, dads, and physicians alike) because they have your best interests in heart.