a tale of two sprains

I have recently been laid up with an injury that has given me time to reflect on a previous, similar injury, and compare and contrast how they both were handled.

Many years ago, back in high school, I sprained my ankle, at least, I think I sprained my ankle, it swelled to the size of a grape fruit and turned terrifying shades of blue and purple. It hurt to put pressure on it. Unable to walk on it, I hobbled to the nearest phone and had my mother pick me up from school.

When I got home, my father made me elevate it and rest — this probably the only practical thing that was done, while my mother called the family Christian Science Practitioner. As I somewhat tearfully explained my ankle was swollen and bruised, she brushed all that side, and began to admonish me that I was perfect and spiritual, and there was no ankle, or something along those lines, and I was being tricked by mortal mind/error, and I need to read some section of the lesson. She rather abruptly hung up.

This was, of course, no real help. I spent the weekend taking it somewhat easy — I didn’t really have much of a choice, I couldn’t walk, and by Monday the swelling had subsided enough that my foot looked almost normal, and my parents deemed me fit to return to school.

The CSP, having never laid eyes on me, or my ankle, declared me fully healed, and when I attempted to argue she told me that mortal mind lies, and that was the end of it. I could walk on it, it felt okay, clearly I had been healed. Praise Christian Science.

I used that story as my “demonstration of Christian Science” portion for the Principia College admissions essay.

There was one problem with this story, it was a blatant lie: my ankle is most certainly not healed, and Christian Science only made things worse.

The new injury came on more slowly than the sprained ankle. It built up over several days, a little over a week, before I was rendered almost unable to put weight on my foot. Then I ignored it for a few more days, hoping it would just get better. I finally scheduled an appointment with my doctor.

My doctor was empathetic, she heard me and asked how I might have hurt my foot. She explained sometimes these things happen, the foot is complicated and there are a lot of bones and tendons, and sometimes things fracture or are strained/sprained without there being an obvious causing event (this may or may not be true, but it made me feel better about it).

My doctor felt my foot and ankle, and compared it with the other uninjured one, there was no swelling, or obvious issue. To rule out fractures, she ordered x-rays, which came back normal. We talked through practical treatment options, none of which included reading Science & Health, all of which were grounded in practical steps I could take, and further steps to take if the first set didn’t work.

It is a little frustrating that in 2019 the cure for a sprained foot (yes, that is a thing) is 4-6 weeks of taking it easy, wearing supportive shoes and putting your feet up, with ice and take anti- inflammatories if/as needed, at the same time, it was liberating.

When I share this with a friend she was horrified they couldn’t do more to manage the pain. Perhaps my years in Christian Science have set the bar low for such injuries, but really, what more is there to do?

I was seen, my pain was acknowledged and validated, practical steps for treatment were discussed, I have a time frame in which this should occur. While I have spent a fair bit of time with my feet up, I’ve also been able to do the majority of what I need to get done because I’m wearing appropriately supportive footwear, and am pacing myself so I don’t over-do things.

I’m not going to try and force the healing to happen faster so I can demonstrate how good I am at it. Sprains take time, and 4-6 weeks sounds quite realistic. An insta-healing in 3 days isn’t a healing at all, it is setting yourself up for a lifetime of random ankle pains that don’t show up on x-rays.


It has been a few weeks since I initially wrote this post, and I am pleased to say things are progressing nicely. I’ve been following my Doctor’s recommendations. I’m not completely over the injury (I’m still within the 4-6 weeks of predicted recovery), but there has been a huge improvement.

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on wisdom and teeth

1013374_479246245492724_714511161_nSome time ago, when I finally picked a dental office to work with, they did a new patient exam which included a 360 x-ray (180? not sure it was most impressive) of my head to see all my teeth. The hygienist noticed I had two remaining wisdom teeth: one was horizontal and un-errupted, while the other sat around doing nothing. Over the course of our conversation she mentioned she’d recently taken her teenage son to have his wisdom teeth removed as she put it, they “knocked him out and pulled all four at once.”

At the time, I thought that course of action was barbaric. All four teeth at once? That’s cruel! Knock them out for a simple dental procedure? That’s crazy.

Then, not too long ago, I found myself reassuring my oral surgeon that don’t worry, “I haven’t gone without local anesthetic since the late 1980s/early 1990s” and that “it was only two, maybe three that were filled without it and they were baby teeth.” Then he mentioned how he would likely need to chisel the remaining wisdom tooth out — the roots ran very deep, and asked what sort of anesthetic I’d picked for the extraction.

My other wisdom teeth had been extracted with local, they’d needed to come out quickly — they were impacted, at least one was infected, and I remembered the experiences very vividly. In the past, had been an urgent phone call to the office, not a consultation to discuss the best course of action — and what would be most comfortable for me. In my mind, it was “a routine extraction” and I’d toughed out two before, why would this one be different?

When I scheduled the consultation and appointment, I’d initially picked local, but after hearing chisel I decided to deffer to his thirty-plus years of expertise and I decided to go with general instead.

I called a friend of mine who used to work as a dental surgical assistant, she talked me through the process and assured me that I would not remember anything. There would be no pain, and I would not remember anything. I could go home and sleep for a few hours, take my prescription pain medication and I would be okay.

It was liberating to know that I didn’t have to be awake for the procedure. It was comforting to know that the oral surgeon was compassionate — sure, he could’ve taken care of the tooth while I was awake, but I would probably still be curled up in bed in tears. In the past I would’ve said selfish, I’m sure it is easier for him to extract teeth from people who are out cold, but I have to agree, it is a win-win, he can work without fear of them freaking out, and the person who is out does not remember the procedure.

I admit, I did a fair bit of crying. Crying because I was terrified of a chisel being used on my tooth, terrified of being put under, terrified of being in pain. Talking to my friend helped with the terror, and the tears turned to tears of anger. If there really was a less painful, less traumatic way to take out wisdom teeth why hadn’t my dentists offered it before? Why hadn’t my parents offered it?

I think it may have been because we didn’t have dental insurance growing up (much less health insurance, pfft, that’s like asking God to cause problems for you), and I already had a well-established terror of dentists, and medical procedures. Dr. Do-it-all didn’t do oral surgery (at the time of my first extraction some were still below the gum line and un-errupted) and I would’ve had to be recommended to an oral surgeon.

I went to my oral surgery appointment with a mix combination of trill and terror. Thrill, that if the oral surgeon and my friend were right, I wouldn’t feel any pain during the procedure and I wouldn’t remember any of it. Terror, because it is dental work, and that’s what happens.

My husband drove, I filled out the paperwork, reassured them that I’d not eaten in “at least 8 hours.” I was taken to one of the rooms in the back, hooked to some monitoring equipment and fitted with an oxygen mask that just covered my nose. I cried a little, oxygen masks make me a little uneasy. My husband told me I looked like a 747. The oral surgeon came in and fitted me with an IV (full disclosure, that part did hurt a little – needles make me squeamish), told me to wiggle my right foot and “think happy thoughts.”

My husband remembers this a bit differently, apparently I was simply panicked: I lay in the chair, frozen in fear, my heart rate and blood pressure climbed — I’d like to blame the wrist-monitors, beeping monitoring machine, and freaky nose-mask. He talked to me, and the numbers went down a little, and as the anesthetic kicked in I slowly started to go limp and the numbers dropped to more acceptable levels.

That’s really about all I remember, except for some very vivid dreams about sand worms on Dune (it was like an odd surreal comic from the Oatmeal), and then waking up with everything surprisingly in focus — they’d put my glasses back on for me, and very tired. I came home, had some liquid yogurt, took some hydrocodon (to keep the pain at bay) and then crawled into bed and slept for two solid hours. Then I watched Nazi documentaries on Netflix, because losing Berlin to the Russian’s is far worse than having a nearly-pain-free wisdom tooth extraction and I wasn’t feeling up to indulging in the pint of comfort ice cream in the freezer just yet.

My husband commented that I looked a lot better than I did the last time, and I reminded him, the last time I was still a Christian Scientist, had been fully aware of what was going on, in pain because it was impacted (and infected), and then I’d gotten to take public transportation home because he couldn’t get off work (in his defense he also wasn’t aware of how deep my dental issues ran at that point, we’d only been married a few months). I also did not hallucinate, because this time the pain medication is worked and I did not have an unpleasant reaction. I also went to an experienced oral surgeon, not Dr. Do-it-all’s East Coast Twin.

The longer I am out of Christian Science, the more I realize that I’m not “giving up” by “giving in” to “materia medica.” I have had enough, I’ve had enough unnecessary and untreated pain, enough infections, enough dental terror. I don’t think dental work under general anesthetic is practical all the time (child care and a day of downtime are not always easily obtained), but for things like wisdom tooth extraction, it was definitely the right choice for me.


what I’ve been reading: things that make me angry

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CS prays for healing at http://www.tampabay.com/news/health/linda-osmundson-casa-director-and-christian-scientist-prays-for-healing/2206547

Why does God Kill So Many Children in Idaho? at https://www.vocativ.com/culture/religion/faith-healing-deaths/?page=all

Birthing Book Linked to Death of Baby at  http://www.theragblog.com/metro-lamar-w-hankins-birthing-book-linked-to-death-of-pursley-baby-in-east-texas-cult/

Religious Freedom vs. Child Protection at http://www.csicop.org/si/show/faith_healing_religious_freedom_vs._child_protection

Praying away the Cavities

I understand dental work can be a difficult issue for some people, which is why the majority of this post is behind the page break. 


Adventures in Christian Science Dental Work

I recently met with an oral surgeon to discuss taking out my remaining wisdom tooth, part of the consult involved a questionnaire about my medical history which has only gotten more complex and interesting the longer I am out of Christian Science. I was quite upfront about my anxiety surrounding dental procedures and mentioned that very early on I had several cavities filled without the benefit of local anesthetic. The oral surgeon looked at my x-rays in horror, nearly all of my teeth have had some sort of work done to them, including three root canals, some rather deep fillings, and two previous wisdom tooth extractions.

I found myself facing that moment you find your self reassuring the oral surgeon that don’t worry, you “haven’t gone without local anesthetic since the late 1980s/early 1990s” and that “it was only two, maybe three that were filled without it and they were baby teeth” — this does NOT make it any better, but it does put in perspective how long it has been since I attempted to “pray away” the cavities. The oral surgeon recommended rescheduling w/general anesthetic instead of just local.

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the dead mothers society

I recently received word that a young woman I had attended college with at Principia passed away. I don’t know the circumstances of her passing and it is unlikely that I’ll ever know. She was a year older than I, and while we were never close friends, her death impacted me greatly: she was a Christian Scientist and mother of three young children (seven and under).

Growing up, most of my friends had two-parent households, there was the occasional step-parent, or parent who traveled often for work, but there were usually two parents in some capacity. I had one friend and one acquaintance who had lost parents: one a father to a fatal heart attack, the other a mother to cancer. They were The Exceptions.

They continued to be “The Exceptions” well into my final years of high school, when a woman in my parent’s Christian Science church – a mother of middle-school-aged children passed away after a prolonged struggle with cancer. I can’t say I paid much attention, people occasionally passed away at my parents church, but it was usually older people. I didn’t know the girls particularly well, and at the time I didn’t think much of it.

It was part way through my time at Principia that I started to realize how many young women had grown up with out a mother. It went from “The Exceptions” and the girls at church to a dozen or more people (that I was aware of) who had lost their mother, often during their teenage years.

What really drove this point home was an experience I had on a Principia Abroad. It was a small group, only about twelve students, and part way through our first week (out of a ten week quarter), one of the young women, a freshman, received word her mother had passed on.

One of the motherless juniors did her best to comfort the grieving freshman, and welcomed her to “the Dead Mothers Society” — as she explained “like the Dead Poets Society.

Of the twelve of us, there were two other students who had also lost a mother, counting the young woman who had just received word, there were three. Some simple math: 3 out of 12 students is 1/4 or 25%. Twenty-five percent of the students on the Abroad had lost their mother. Principia Abroads claim to be a fair representation of students on campus, and while I’m not sure 1/4 of all students were motherless by the time they reached Principia, the number (anecdotal or not) is still large enough that it should not be ignored.

The premature and preventable deaths of young Christian Science women is troubling (1). During my time at Principia women passed away from malaria (contacted during a trip to Africa), drowning (at summer camp), and thyroid cancer (2). Since leaving Principia I’ve heard of several other young women –often mothers with young children– passing on (3). The cause of death is often never revealed for “privacy reasons.”

The passing of my college acquaintance left me feeling gutted. She came from a strong Christian Science background, had a large supportive, multi-generational Christian Science family, and she and her husband had moved closer to Principia so their children could attend the Lower School.

Although it is highly unlikely I would have ever taken such a Christian Science-centric path (there is no way I’d move to the Saint Louis area), our children were similar in age, and we occasionally swapped parenting stories. I went to Sunday School with her cousins. I keep having a nagging feeling that it could’ve been me.


  1. Young men pass on too soon as well, but I found the number of young mothers who had passed away to be staggering.
  2. Malaria and thyroid cancer are largely speculative, as, in good Christian Science fashion, no one ever came out and said what happened. Drowning, however, is harder to explain away.
  3. “Young” in this case means under 40 years old for the mother, and under 10 years old for the children.