Other than CPR training, and some basic biology and physiology courses when I was younger, I’ve never been a medical student. I am not licensed to dispense medical treatments. Neither, as far as I know, are the majority of my friends, co-workers and acquaintances. And yet, I, and every other Real Woman I know, play the role from time to time of nurse or therapist for our loved ones.
Those of us who are moms somehow are granted the title of Home Nurse as soon as the first child exits the birth canal. For some reason, more so in many ways than our male counterparts, we are to magically know what to do for our children in case of illness, injury, and emotional and mental anguish. Some of this knowledge is obtained through research (how many of us have reached out to Web MD and others to look up symptoms and causes for a variety of maladies to determine treatment?), and yet much of our Home Nurse knowledge is based on natural instinct, communication with other moms, and lore handed down to us from previous generations. Much like Witch Doctors in other cultures.
And for those of us who are not moms, you are not immune to the Nurse Role. If you have a man in your life, family members, or pet(s), you are also Home Nurse. You are the one with the stamina, inherent wisdom, and calmness in the face of crisis….even if you don’t think you are equipped for the responsibility, it will inevitably still fall to you. Ironically, when caring for the men in our life, it takes them hearing your advice from another friend, relative, or true professional in the medical field, for them to believe you. And of course they will act like it is a new treatment or revelation, certainly not something you have been telling them for the past three weeks.
Let’s take a moment to think about some of the routine “medical” decisions we make on a regular basis.
- Situation: Man or child is cranky. Answer: Eat and rest.
- Situation: Pet has ear infection. Answer: Daily rinsing and cleaning of yuck out of ears. For some reason, this ever so fun process will fall to you, not anyone else in the household.
- Situation: Man, child, or pet has sliver in hand, foot or paw. Answer: Get patient under a bright light, then try extracting said item with the following tools, in progression: fingers, scotch tape, tweezers, then as necessary, cauterized needle. Follow with washing and neosporin.
- Situation: Man, child, friend, co-worker or family member is stressed and unhappy. Answer: Listen. Dispense calming words as needed.
- Situation: Man or child has rash. Answer: Benedryl. If this doesn’t work, consult real doctor.
- Situation: Man has a head cold. Answer: He feels he is near death. Put him to bed, prop up his head, give him cold medicine, plenty of liquids to drink and tell him to rest. Because he will be no use to you anyway until he feels better.
This morning, after working with my son on the arduous task of taking a pill, and cleaning out my dog’s ears, I took off my nurse’s uniform and headed to work. On the way, I got to thinking about how my mom was of course our Home Nurse growing up…. And I started to wonder about the home-remedies she applied to each of us, some of which I still use, many of them I have long since dismissed. Tell me if any of you experienced these same treatments:
- Upset stomach = flat ginger ale. It took me almost 30 years before I could drink ginger ale without thinking about being sick on the couch at home and how bad it tasted luke warm and flat.
- Sore throat = pat of butter rolled in sugar. Mom only tried this on me once. I couldn’t eat it then, I could never eat it now.
- Stomach cramps = Drink soda. As a young child, this was the only time we were allowed to have soda pop. Mom assumed that cramps were caused by gas. She was generally correct. Soda produced burps, thus amusing us and relieving the issue.
- Blocked/dirty ears = regular rinsing with Hydrogen Pyroxide. This was a regular ritual, each of us with our heads laying on towels on the kitchen table while she dripped the liquid in with a dropper, swished it around, then drained and cleaned. I now wonder, were our ears REALLY that dirty that it required this? Did none of us know how to use q-tips?
- Hiccups = any number of odd options here. One common trick in my family was having someone hold your ears while you drank water. Felt a bit like we were trying to become a well-hydrated Spock.
- Cough = that brown bottle in the medicine cabinet of cough syrup that burned all the way down and probably had an alcohol content of 30%. Tasted horrible, but boy did that stuff work.
- Heat exhaustion = cold wash cloth on face and head, lie down in front of fan.
What traditional remedies do you remember? Please feel free to share, I’d love to hear them.
Perhaps some of our treatments have changed over time…. or some of us may find that we still default to the wisdom of our moms or grandmothers, unknowingly passing along traditions that our kids may then use on their loved ones. They may even say “I don’t know why my mom did this, but it always worked.” And I guess therein lies our answer as to why we friends/wives/mothers/pet owners are also Home Nurses. Because we are the caretakers. We are that comforting face, that welcoming hug, that assumed wisdom.
We just make it better.