My friends come to me with their medical problems. Usually, not the intensely personal. I think I've made it clear that if its crotch related and is dripping, swollen or pustule covered I'll treat it with fire. So they come with coughs, running noses, pains, sleep problems, and, my personal favorite thus far, a gashed open chin.
When someone vaults a railing, catches his foot, and drives all hundred-and-eighty pounds of himself into the concrete on the very point of his chin, you can pull open the gash and see his whisker follicles on the inside. He'd waited an hour and a half in the emergency room before he'd called me. I cleaned it out and closed it with superglue. It scarred just a little. He paid me eighty dollars, which I tried to give back, but only a little. I'm still thrilled at having seen hair follicles on the inside. It's so cool.
This was when I lived in town. Now I'm a desert dweller, forty-miles from a paved road on the family ranch. Now they come to me online, on Facebook or GTalk. I can't close wounds, but I can do about all I ever did otherwise and dispense advice on caring for yourself when ill with the usual crud. Or the crap. Or the ick. You see where this is going.
Why do they come? Because we're friends, primarily. That's the most important part. It may be the only part, really. I'm not a doctor. I was pre-med for a blink, and an EMT for awhile. I'm still very interested in medicine, and keep really current. I can talk shop with doctors, but that doesn't make me one. I'm pretty honest about that too. They joking call me the “mob doctor”, although part of my standard advice is to go see a doctor. At least, go see the university nurse, since a lot of my friends are still students. I try to be honest and only do what I can. Even then, I always wonder if I'm not overstepping some unseen bounds. I feel bad that the cut I closed with superglue scarred. I reassure myself that a century ago people, who couldn't possibly know what I do, were still hanging signs proclaiming to be doctors. For many their only legitimacy the lead paint word on the knotted plank swinging above the door. Third world tribe members who've been through intensive programs provide a higher level of care for hundreds of their fellows than I do. It's okay. I obviously am not a total quack. They keep coming back.
In the spring, when swine flu first came up, I wrote a long piece about it and posted it on my blog, and on Facebook as a note. I added links and for the first week or so that the novel H1N1 virus was emerging kept track of it. I did it for my friends who were either panicking or totally dismissive. I know a little bit about biology and viral behavior, I did go to college for three years. Most people ignored it, at the time. It was just another part of the sensory overload of the initial mad rush of attention for a potential nightmare pandemic. Now that is has, according to plan, reemerged in the northern hemisphere for fall, I've been fielding my friends questions. Most of which have been answered with a simple no. No, your runny nose is probably not swine flu. If you get worse, increasing fever, nausea, and so on, go to the doctor. No, it's not that bad it's just another flu, you'll be okay. No, I'd avoid playing beer pong for awhile, sharing cups right now is a bad idea.
Most everyone I know is actually fine. I do have a few who are sick. Not all with the flu. I call them mine because they are, they're my friends. And in a way, they're my patients. They've trusted me and my advice, and I'm going to do my best. I take care of my friends every way I can, this is another of them. So when I see one of them on Facebook, or GTalk I ask how they are. What temperature they're running. I make sure they're hydrating, taking vitamin C, and any medication they might be on. I suggest over-the-counter medicines that might help. And tea, always tea for almost anything. Talking to one, reminds me of another, so I'll pull up the messenger client and check on them. I'll make my rounds like that. Taking care of my friends, the best I can, because I can.
This is important. It always has been. We need to use the skills we have to take care of those around us, in the communities we've chosen. We're in a pretty big mess, all around, and the only people we have to rely on are ourselves. Are you alone as yourself, or are you among a group of selves who look out for one another with the skills you have? Better figure it out.