Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vicks Vapor Rub Religion

"Yes it' the truth about healers and doctors. Jesus was profane and his disciples worse and as doctors we're too aware that we are born between piss and shit and commonly die in piss and shit but society demands that their meat come in cellophane so they can maintain their personal lies and illusions."

I told the story of my being invited to a discussion of church service. A group of young women in their 30's possibly wanting more to attract the men had invited me to be in their midst to discuss what we were 'called' to do for Jesus. One lush thing opined that she so wanted so to serve the poor but that their smell so offended her sensitive nostrils she couldn't bring herself to be in their midst despite her ardent desire to serve her Lord.

"Vicks vapor rub", I responded. The group had turned to me and one man asked what I meant.

"As a medical student I felt the same in the cadaver room doing dissections, the smell of dead flesh and formaldehyde feces and such being almost overpowering. I'm forever grateful to a senior anatomist who told me that he put vicks vapor rub in his nose so he could work. I used it extensively when I worked on the drunken reserves in the north and doing physical examinations in the inner city ghettos, especially with the old men and women who wear layers of clothing and never wash"

One could hear a pin drop. Thereafter the Christian "ladies" literally shrank from my presence. Leaving for the night the organizer of the soiree extended her hand then retracted it as if on second thought.

I was never invited back.

My missionary doctor friend howled with laughter when I later told him the story. I said, "vicks vapor rub" is one of the hundreds of little things that my teachers passed on to me that literally saved my life. "It was as important a lesson as taking the extra minute to warm the stainless steel speculum before insertion." So much of real day to day medical practice was never put in textbooks. It's only learned at the bed side through mentorship and experience.

"She's been dining off that "excuse" for years, " my friend said. Laughing still, he added, "you've taken it away from her......I'm not surprised you weren't invited back.."

He went on to explain how they had to be very careful on how they shared their missionary experience with the people they sought money and aid from. "They just want those warm fuzzy feelings that people equate with religion. It's important what they do. We couldn't do our work without them but they couldn't sleep at night if they were ever confronted with reality. They live a world of money and things and nice feelings and call that Christianity. Indeed it is, for them. "

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