When I was growing up I lived in a very remote area with no doctors and no hospitals nearby. I was six months old when my parents moved to this particular location—a village buried in the rainforest on a tiny little island in the Pacific Ocean.
I’ve thought often about the courage my parents must’ve had to take their very young baby to a place where they knew full well there was no medical care.
As I grew up in that place, I saw my parents—especially my dad—become the stand-in medical practitioner for the community. He just had basic first aid training. His real job was as a linguist.
My parents went to that location with some medical supplies, and those supplies were more than what was locally available. So I remember seeing my dad stitch up machete gashes and apply dressings to big festering ulcers and stuff like that.
Anyone who was in grave medical condition was beyond his scope of care, though. They had to be carried seven hours down the mountain (through the jungle, through rivers, and across logs that spanned chasms) to a rudimentary clinic on the coast. Either that or they stayed in the village, hoped for the best or died. It was that basic.
This week I was with a young family that had a two-year-old and a baby. The toddler had had a bunch of problems with reflux when she was really tiny and also had had some episodes where she stopped breathing. She needed the care of a pediatric doctor and emergency health care professionals.
The parents were able to perform CPR a couple of times, but of course for most of the medical care they went to a pediatric primary care facility. (Or the emergency room!)
We are so fortunate in the developed world to have access to quality health care. Those of us who are parents have the great blessing of almost instantaneous pediatric care, whether we find that from our child’s established pediatrician or at a pediatric 24-hour care center.
And of course we can always call 911 and the help will come to us in the privacy of our own home.
As much as we gripe about health care in our developed countries, still, we are so much more fortunate than the people who live in remote areas or developing countries without access to good care.
My family of origin as well as the family I raised were blessed with strong bones, good lungs, healthy hearts, and overall great health. I can count on one hand the times I needed a doctor growing up, and the times I had to cart my own kids off to a doctor.
My friend has not had the same fortune. She is with her boys at the doctor every other week, it seems. That’s an exaggeration, but not by much. She’s practically on a first-name basis with the pediatric emergency staff and her boys’ established pediatrician.
I’m really glad she has trusted healthcare professionals so close and so accessible. Their availability helps her manage the stress that she feels when they get sick.