Sunday, 24 January 2010

For Muriel Dunne. My nan.

I've seen numerous skeptical bloggers writing about why they are behind the 10:23 campaign and why they are taking part and I felt it would be a neat thing to write about from a personal POV.

Clearly, one of the main reasons I am taking part it because Michael Marshall of the Merseyside skeptics society who has been heavily involved with the organisation of the campaign happens to be one of my cohosts for the Righteous Indignation Podcast and I've watched and listened from the sidelines (so to speak) as the campaign has come together in the hands of the MSS and it proved to me that great things can be achieved by holding a passion for something and the determination the guys from the Merseyside Skeptics Society held for this campaign and everything it stands for rubbed off on me a little bit.

It made me stop and consider just how outrageous it was that Boots - a brand we trust with our health, were selling homeopathic remedies that don't work (I should point out now that if your name or pseudonym is Nancy Malik you can sod right of before posting a reply to my blog, got it?)

The thing that set me apart from most other people I knew who supported the 10:23 campaign was the fact that I didn't have a personal experience with any type of alt med. I mean, sure, I go on enough about how conventional medicine saved my life twice and how I will always be thankful and I believe this is enough of a reason for me to take part - yet, I read the blog posts from others who had experienced close shaves because of homeopathy. I've even reported on stories about people dying because they, or their parents used homeopathy to cure their illnesses or conditions rather that medicine that actually works.

However some weeks ago I was having a discussion with my mum as we made a cup of tea about the campaign and how I felt it was important that misinformation wasn't allowed to just be spread around without somebody challenging it. The discussion was mainly focused on my challenging an article published in a local magazine by a local homeopath.

My mum told something that I had never been told before and it really made me think and realise just how right we are to challenge misinformation as we do.
My nan died in 1995, she was extremely ill and her health had been deteriorating for such a long time.

In fact, I'll share a secret with you. I used to sleep at my Grans house (my dad's mother) all the time and being the emotional child I was it made me feel guilty that I never stayed at my nans house (my mothers mum) as often. I slept at her house for one night and on the second occasion that I was supposed to sleep there my gran threw up violently and it scared me be more than I've ever been scared by someones health and I demanded my mum take me home.

It wasn't even a year later that she died and from the day she died, when I realised just how ill she was, I had a dirty lump of guilt in my stomach because I refused to stay over at my nans house because I was a scaredey cat. It brings tears to my eyes right now because if I had known how little time I had left with her, I would have slept over. It's silly, but it made me feel terrible for years and years...

Anyway, back to the story. About a year before my nan died she visited her GP because she was suffering from pain - I can't remember where the pain was, but her GP recommended that she took pain killers very four hours.

He forgot to tell her that once the pain had gone she could stop taking the tablets.

This resulted in my nan, who at this point was very ill and, as my mum put it 'going slightly senile' taking pain killers every four hours for roughly three or four months. Non stop.

This is when she started to throw up for 'no apparent reason.' It was after these months had passed that my mum one day asked my nan why she was taking pain killers, she questioned whether she was in pain or not and my nan told my mum she had been told to take them every four hours.

That's how easy it is for information that might seem harmless to become harmful by becoming misinformation.

When my nan went to see her GP he didn't know she would mistake his instructions as she had done. If she had taken the tablets as instructed just until the pain went away it wouldn't have made her even sicker - but it did, because she didn't fully understand what she was being told.

She was vulnerable and was misled.

That is why whenever I see somebody offering or promoting a health service that is quackery at it's worst I think of my nan. I think, if Mr local homeopath had written his article when my nan was alive and she had read it, she would have probably believed that her flu vaccine didn't work and that homeopathy would have helped treat flu should she catch it.

If Mrs Spiritual healer told my nan she could cure her illnesses using a special magic power that she reckons she has my nan might have believed her and may have parted with her cash to receive this healing.

That's why I always speak up when I see something that is wrong.

I do it for nan, I do it Muriel Dunne.

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