House of Horrors

The following is a guest post by long-time reader and fellow former-Christian Scientist Dr. Spock. For more, please visit the Guest Posts & Contributors tab at the top of the page.


I frequently visit Victoria, British Columbia, a place that stirs a lot of memories for me, and I recently got back from a week there with family and friends. I partially grew up there, as I often spent my summers as a kid in the area with my cousins, and it was tradition at Christmas to go to my aunt and uncle’s place for a large family Christmas gathering, where I learned fast, as the youngest able-bodied cousin, to eat quickly if I wanted seconds on turkey and stuffing. I always remember the corner store where, when I was around nine or ten years old, my cousin and I spent our allowance one hot summer day on a box each of about a dozen Twinkies, on which we gorged ourselves while sitting on the store’s stoop. Before we were able to pedal all the way back home, we were throwing up in a ditch by the side of the road. The store isn’t there anymore, long ago swallowed up by condos and cookie-cutter yuppieish boutiques and coffee shops as urban development spread into the once semi-rural area where my cousins lived. Sometimes I drive by the house my cousins lived in, and try to find some of the other landmarks from my childhood summers as they occasionally emerge from the mists of my memory. Along with the fun memories of childhood, also come some darker ones. Victoria is also the place where my mother went to die in the worst pain I can imagine, in a Christian Science nursing facility. It is also where my father and I scattered her ashes at the seashore; and where, less than a year later, I scattered his. These memories burn brightly as if it were yesterday when it all happened.

Victoria is a beautiful city, and I always enjoy my visits with family and friends in the area. On the other side of the coin, it’s not always easy to be there. One ritual I always perform when I’m there is to visit the seaside park where my parents’ ashes were scattered. It’s the one place where I can physically go and “visit” them. It’s a spectacularly beautiful spot with a view over Juan de Fuca Strait towards Washington State in the USA. Dad and I chose that spot to scatter Mom’s ashes because of its beauty, and the fact that it combined, as best as possible, two places she loved: Vancouver Island (where Victoria is located), and in view of Washington State. After we scattered Mom’s ashes, Dad declared to me his desire to have his ashes scattered there as well, saying that when the time came, he “wanted to be with her”. Previously, for many years, he’d expressed a desire to have his ashes scattered in the Canadian Rockies.

Not far from where my parents’ ashes were scattered, is the place I consider to be a true House Of Horrors a.k.a. Wayside House. It’s the Christian Science nursing facility where many good Canadian (and maybe a few American and other) Christian Scientists go to suffer and often die–without even the most basic pain mitigation allowed to soften the blow. Wayside House is where my Mom died under Christian Science “care”. I’ve often driven past this place over the years, usually never stopping; trying not to give the place much more than a second thought, but this time, it was different. I drove around the block to circle back in front of the driveway into this despicable place. I pulled over to the side of the road and just sat there and looked on for a few minutes. It looked peaceful and serene at the House Of Horrors. In fact, it looked like nobody was there at all, but I knew otherwise. Beneath that serene exterior, I knew there were people in there in excruciating pain, dying of god only knows what awful diseases they chose not to have treated or even diagnosed.

I remember a visit to the House Of Horrors early in childhood when my grandmother worked there as a Christian Science nurse. I distinctly remember hearing a woman moaning in pain or some sort of discomfort from a room down the hall as I accompanied my grandmother on her rounds. I don’t remember if I asked Gram about what I heard, but I do remember it. I wonder now what sort of pain that poor woman was in. The only comfort the “nurses” would’ve been able to offer would have been to shift pillows, offer water or juice, or read from the Bible and/or the writings of Mary Baker Eddy or other Christian Science literature. Not even an aspirin is permitted in these houses of horrors, and people often enter these facilities with advanced cancer or other serious diseases eating away at their bodies. Before Christian Scientists will acquiece even to care at a Christian Science nursing facility, they will often have suffered at home on their own with whatever ailment they’re dealing with for quite some time. Any admission of advancement of a disease is an admission of failure in your practice Christian Science, and many Christian Scientists are loathe to admit such.

Thankfully, the House Of Horrors is on its last few remaining financial legs, as far as I know. Each year it manages to remain in operation amazes me. Unlike Christian Science nursing facilities in the United States, this facility receives no government funding for patient care, although it is licensed as a “private hospital” under the laws of the province of British Columbia. Canadian Medicare, unlike Medicare/Medicaid in the United States, wisely does not fund care in non-medical facilities, and I don’t know of any private insurance here that does either. If you go to this place, you’re there on your own dime and for what you get, it’s not cheap. Some financial aid is apparently available. As I settled out my parents’ estate, I begrudgingly wrote a cheque for over $1,000.00 to settle up the last payment for Mom’s so-called “care”. For her hard-earned cash, Mom got a room, a nicely made bed each morning, and nicely prepared food, which the large tumour growing in her abdomen pretty much prohibited her from eating. Her pillows were probably fluffed and shifted as needed, and she had a phone for her use. Other than that, the nurses would have only read from “the books” (the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures), some other writings by Mary Baker Eddy, and maybe some Christian Science periodicals. Apparently, one nurse was a good piano player and sung hymns with her in the common room. They also filled Dad and I up with sunny reports of Mom’s “progress”, including one story of her “dancing” in the hallway (I’ve heard different versions of that anecdote from others, so I wonder if it’s part of some script that Christian Science nurses learn in their training). I later learned from my non-Christian Scientist cousin, who visited Mom frequently at the House of Horros, that the only progress Mom was making in her last weeks there was towards the grave, and that she appeared to be in excruciating pain most of the time. The sunshiny, rose-petaled denial that Christian Scientists retreat to in the face of serious illness is deeply maddening to me now.

The House Of Horrors survives largely on bequests, donations, and in the past by sales of its formerly extensive real estate holdings. It’s located in a high-value neighbourhood of Victoria, and once comprised several acres of open space. I’d estimate the property they sold off was probably worth a few million dollars over the years. I’m not certain how much of their endowment still exists, but several years back I remember overhearing a conversation my uncle-in-law was having (he was on their board of directors at the time), and it sounded like the money was getting thin. Like the Christian Science Church and other Christian Science affiliated organizations, the House Of Horrors is a dying corpse that survives by cannibalizing itself by selling off assets, and benefiting from the bequests of dead Christian Scientists. Fortunately, no Christian Science-related organization got any bequests from my parents’ estate–they left it all to me exclusively, and there’s no way in hell will I give one dime to a Christian Science-affiliated organization. However, if I had pre-deceased my parents, a branch church, The Mother Church, and Principia would have equally split the proceeds from their estate. It’s a good thing I’m a survivor, I guess. I’d hate to think of any of my parents’ estate helping to sustain anything connected with Christian Science, despite their own [misguided] dedication to it, especially as I think on the horrific ways their dedication to Christian Science ended up killing them. Each year, I make a gift to the Salvation Army during their Christmas Drive in quiet honour of my Dad who did the same during his lifetime.

I sat there in my car looking on at the House Of Horrors, and raised my middle finger in a quiet salute to this awful place. Through my open window, I said “fuck you!” It felt good as I drove away. Nobody, except maybe the neighbour in whose driveway I’d stopped, would have heard me, but it still felt good. I said my peace to that place. I told them what I thought of them and what they do there. It was also my “fuck you” to Christian Science. Sometimes, you just need to do things like this.

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Germs – Bacteria, Viruses, Fungi & Antiboitics

This post was inspired by a comment on a previous post about how  “it is common medical advice not to prescribe antibiotics for common ailments such as a sinus infection especially in light of the dangers of antibiotic resistant viruses.” I agree, a responsible doctor won’t prescribe antibiotics for a virus because viruses don’t respond to antibiotics.

With this in mind, I’ve put together a collection of helpful links and found a chart (because charts are cool) to help clarify the differences between bacteria, viruses and fungi, and when antibiotics should be used.


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Please remember, this is intended to offer people support, ideas, and resources. It is not in any way intended to be a substitute for medical advice or care. Please see a health care professional if you have concerns, especially if your concern is serious!

Coughing, coughing, and coughing from Untreated Allergies

The following post is part of the on-going “I went to the Doctor” series, which details first hand experiences of Christian Scientists and former-Christian Scientists who sought medical care or treatment outside of Christian Science.

Today’s post Coughing, coughing, and coughing from Untreated Allergies is by former Christian Scientist Rogue Sheep.


The coughing started one summer in elementary school. The details are a little fuzzy at this point. I remember being on family vacation and I had developed a really bad cough. I would cough uncontrollably for minutes, feeling like my head was about to explode, and always needing to spit up phlegm. Sometimes I coughed so violently that I ended up throwing up.

When we got home from the trip, I was still coughing. I stayed home for the first month of school because I couldn’t stop the coughing and throwing up. I thought my eyes were going to burst out of my head.

My parents had been trying to treat it with Christian Science, but finally they took me to a doctor. I was diagnosed with Bronchitis and given this pale purple liquid medicine. It tasted awful, I always put up a fight, and generally just coughed it back up. They gave me a choice between relying on Christian Science treatment or taking the medicine. Because I loathed the medication, we turned back to Christian Science.

When I finally stopped throwing up so much and just had occasional coughing fits, I went back to school. I remember having to step out of the classroom to have my honking coughing bouts and I’d run to the bathroom to spit out the extra saliva and phlegm. Eventually the cough cleared up.

But as the years went by, I kept getting these really bad coughs, usually after a cold, and the coughing lasted at minimum 3 weeks. I was always carrying around tissues to spit in, or I’d hide in the bathroom or go outside to cough my brains out. This was a problem I was constantly praying about yet was getting no relief. The cough and chest congestion usually just ran its course and yes, 3-4 weeks later I was “healed.” Funny how that happens. My chest and stomach would be exhausted from all the coughing and sleep was pretty evasive. I eventually just learned how to sleep through my coughing (which I’m still capable of doing as an adult, much to the dismay of others). I can’t tell you how many cough drops I consumed in my teens, it was one of the few “material remedies” that was ok to use. I now despise the taste of most cough drops.

I stopped practicing Christian Science right as I was getting into the working world and I was still getting these bad coughs after a cold. I still had to run outside my office so no one would hear the full extent of my coughing. It was embarrassing.  And my co-workers started noticing too. I can tell you this: when you work in a quiet office with non-Christian Scientists, nobody likes to be around you when you’re coughing. If you sound like you’re coughing up a lung and just getting worse, it’s important to take steps to show you’re not a big contagious mess. I couldn’t just stay home because these coughs happened so regularly and lasted such a long time. I remember my co-workers would ask if I’d gone to the doctor yet. Sometimes I would lie and say yes because I didn’t want them to know that I was scared to go to the doctor despite having gone to Urgent Care once before.

So I continued to do a lot of self-diagnosing and self-medicating. I spent countless hours reading labels at the drug store. I had given up on most herbal remedies and I think I tried almost every single variation of cough syrup and cold remedy from the shelves. Mucinex DM became one of my saving graces, but it still wasn’t perfect. Finally I started going to those walk-in clinics at CVS and Walgreens (though I don’t see them around much anymore). They were close to work and they felt a little more approachable than Urgent Care. I remember one doctor prescribed me a cough syrup, and it actually worked! It was amazing. Something finally brought me relief for at least a few hours at a time.

At this point I still hadn’t taken the step to find a primary care doctor. When you go to Urgent Care or clinics, it’s often different doctors each time. In hindsight, I wish I’d found a doctor to go to on a regular basis much sooner. I had been so afraid that a primary care doctor would judge me for having no medical history or they would want to talk about more than my cough and end up finding some heinous disease hidden in me. Silly, I know. But by going to different clinics on my as-needed basis they really only assessed me in that moment and could treat symptoms, not root causes. They couldn’t really review my history of this coughing because my records were here, there, and everywhere at clinics.  A primary care doctor might have been able to help me cut to the chase sooner.

During a routine visit unrelated to one of these coughs, my doctor recommended over-the-counter allergy medication to manage my allergies to cats and dust, among other allergens. Little did I know that managing my allergies would have many more benefits.

I’ve since realized that most of my “colds” that led to the coughing were actually started by nasal allergies and the nasal drainage that ensued. By managing the early sniffly symptoms of allergies with Claritin (Loratidine) or Claritin-D (Pseudoephedrine, you have to buy this from the pharmacist), I’ve dramatically reduced the number of these “colds” that progressed into Bronchitis.  Imagine that! Relief from years of suffering and hiding in bathrooms so I could cough. I used to bank on these coughs happening at least 2-3 times a year. At the time of writing this, I haven’t had one of these bouts in at least 3 years. It’s amazing how much time I wasted being sick.

(ex-)Christian Scientist Health Care- Patent Medicines and Natural Remedies

This was left a as a comment on my Christian Science Health Care: Stocking the medicine cabinet post, I though it was worth sharing further!

Understanding Mortal Mind

Kat at Kindism wrote a very good post describing the common patent medicines for everyday physical problems under the same title I am using here. This strikes me as a very practical thing to do. Please read her article. Then underneath in the comment section I added the following remedies, which I am taking the liberty of re-posting here.

First, let me say that I treat all patent medicines with great wariness and respect. I call anything manufactured by a drug company out of chemicals and targeted to one type of symptom, a patent medicine. Believe me, they are all patented. The drug companies are a powerful, organized force and have taken allopathic medicine to incredible heights. Sometimes power and greed overshadow the quality and leaving CS should not give to permission of use remedies without learning about them.

My basic rule: I try to use only generic medicines. These…

View original post 1,007 more words

Hi Kat: I’m so grateful to know that I can turn to evidence based medicine for healing

The following is an e-mail I received from a reader that I have shared here with their permission. I don’t often publish e-mails from readers, but when I do they’ll be categorized and tagged “Hi Kat e-mails.”


I was dealing recently with the apparent belief a very sore foot that suddenly became alarmingly swollen and discolored late one evening. I was afraid, trying to remember what I might have done to injure my foot as the pain initially seemed consistent with a bruise or some other impact, and I couldn’t remember. Now, with the swelling, now more burning pain sensation I began to suspect maybe a spider bite (common where I live). I decided to turn to the one place I knew I could begin to find healing in this situation, so very late at night: the Emergency room at the local hospital. There I was seen almost immediately by the triage nurse who kindly remarked how glad she was that I got in to see them when I did, as my foot situation looked very serious. I waited in the streaming section for around half an hour, then in an exam room. Eventually the doctor on duty was able to see me. He looked at the foot, and assured me we weren’t dealing with a spider bite, but actually a serious and very aggressive infection. Still dangerous, just a different kind. He prescribed liquid antibiotics and bed rest with the foot elevated.

I visited the hospital for two more rounds of the liquid antibiotics, and then switched to the pills. That, and a few days of bed rest worked wonders! I’m now almost finished the course of antibiotics that were prescribed, and I’m able to walk comfortably on the foot, and the swelling is rapidly disappearing.

I’d like to give my deepest gratitude to the doctors and nurses who helped me and treated me with the utmost kindness and respect. I’d also especially like to give thanks to antibiotics, and whoever discovered them. I’m so grateful to know that I can turn to evidence based medicine for healing, instead of the dangerous and false teachings of Christian Science, which may have resulted in a far different, and much more unpleasant outcome for me.

~EG


A note from Kat:

What a wonderful demonstration, thank you for sharing!

Hi Kat: I finally had kicked the cs habit

The following is an e-mail I received from a reader that I have shared here with their permission. I don’t often publish e-mails from readers, but when I do they’ll be categorized and tagged “Hi Kat e-mails.”


About 3 years ago I was late for work so I was running across a busy Boston Street and did not see the unevenness of the pavement and fell. When I got up it was obvious that I had really damaged my left wrist.  So I immediately hailed a cab and got over to Mass General emergency room where I was immediately treated with love, respect and humor.  A wonderful team suggested that I have a metal plate put in my wrist as it was partially shattered.  I almost reverted back to my insanity of cs thinking for a second that maybe it could heal well on its own with a splint in place.  Fortunately the love of the nurse and doctor had me in surgery 2 days later (I had never been in surgery) . It was so well done that I barely think of it other than gratitude for the entire team including the anesthesiologist.  I finally had kicked the cs habit and found love in letting “materia medica” do what no one else could do especially cs.

Thank you for letting me share.
Dan

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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