Health is a fickle thing. Sometimes your body works with you, sometimes it works against you. And everyone manages these ebbs and flows in their own way. Some look forward to their annual flu shot and have a medicine cabinet that resembles a chemistry set. Some boycott pharmaceuticals entirely, opting for natural, sometimes dubious and often expensive, remedies. Others eschew commonsense entirely and whip out an 8cm-long crystal to help them decide which medicine to prescribe today. My experience of all things medical encompasses the above, and then some.
I was raised on homeopathics (considered by many as a medical fraud), which was supplemented occasionally with a range of naturopathics. For me, a standard consultation involved sitting in the home office of a middle-aged woman for an hour, surrounded by aging-hippy paraphernalia, and being prescribed odd-smelling herbs and tiny white balls that tasted like sugar. It’s easy to criticize alternative medicine, but aside from my required vaccinations, I didn’t need to see a doctor until I was 9 years old. I was, without a doubt, the healthiest kid on my block.
Then came my brush with medical disaster. It seems my childhood of unusually good health had set the universe off-balance and needed to be rectified with a good dose of character-building hospitalization. At the age of 13, I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis that no amount of homeopathy or crystal waving could cure. Six weeks in hospital, three operations, 14-days in traction, a cocktail of hallucinogenic drugs and a partridge in a pear tree later, my spine was straight and I was ready to go home. It was a very difficult time, even more so for my mother who could do nothing more than tend my wounds and watch as I dragged myself from one day to the next.
I’ve experienced two extreme sides of the medical coin and have benefited immensely from both of them. Natural medicine continues to have its place in my day-to-day life, and I still prefer a cup of hot water, some vitamin C and a dash of Echinacea to cure what ails me. But it’s no exaggeration to say that without the help of modern Western medicine, I would not be sitting here writing this today. However, I like to think my days of medical extremism are over and I’ve found a happy medium that is better for my body and my sanity.
This month we cover the basics of maintaining good health in Beijing, from health insurance to hospitals, must-have natural medicines and services for families with special needs children.
Our bodies are reliable, sturdy and at the ready whenever we need them. But one day, that may not be the case, and you may have no warning. So be kind to yourself because it shouldn’t take a trip to the hospital to remind you just how precious your health is.