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We will heed medical advice in pandemics, but not when it comes to our general health
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

The number of people today who are actually heeding doctors’ advice and taking steps to avoid ill health is astonishing.

Too bad many only seem to do so in the grips of a pandemic.

Many dismiss – or refuse to follow – advice from medical professionals about excessive drinking, smoking, diet, exercise, and an endless list of risky behavior that can lead to a premature death or a debilitating illness that will severely compromise the remainder of your life.

A pandemic certainly isn’t your run-of-the-mill health challenge. Medical advice, when accepted by governors, can become a government edict in a declared emergency. There are those like former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who’d like to a see such power deployed 24/7 to prevent the unwashed masses from drinking soda and doing other things a well-heeled billionaire doesn’t partake in.

What is kind of unnerving, however, are those who are trying to short-circuit legitimate debates about how government is responding to the pandemic by making absolute statements that imply only an imbecile would argue against any government edict regarding the pandemic because it is rooted in medical advice that is espoused by the dominant herd of physicians and scientists.

Based on the general health of Americans before the pandemic hit, then we must have a lot of imbeciles including many among those today that slam any questioning of medical advice they view as gospel when it comes to COVID-19.

The intricacies of the coronavirus is clearly way above my pay grade and at times seemingly a step or so above epidemiologists and medical researchers working diligently to get a better understanding of COVID-19 and ways to counter it.

But in the end whatever they come up with to battle COVID-19 may not be an absolute given there is always a wide array of variables.

Everything we do has a risk. We are constantly making decisions to do things that essentially determine the reward is worth the risk.

If we opt to drive across the country to see the USA we are exposing ourselves to a greater risk of being in an accident. The rewards can easily outweigh even a consideration of what could go wrong even if we proceed with caution.

Back when I was 30, Dr. George Scarmon was my general physician. During a routine physical Scarmon looked at my feet.

Scarmon asked a number of questions about my bunions. My answers were basically I had no issues with them. When we were about done, Scarmon said he was referring me to a podiatrist to take a look at them. I asked why. He simply said “you’ll see” and added before I made any decision based on advice from the podiatrist to see him first.

I spent the next week leading up to the podiatry appointment wondering what was wrong.

When the podiatrist looked at my bunions, he asked if they ever hurt. I said that they do when I accidentally hit them or after a 100-mile bicycle ride. He then proceeded to tell me it will only get worse as I got older and I needed to have surgery on both feet. He mentioned the risk of something going wrong and that the recovery process could take six months or longer.

I was rattled by the time I saw Scarmon again.

He asked what the podiatrist told me. When I was through he asked whether the podiatrist told me there was an extremely high chance the bunions would grow back within 10 or so years. He hadn’t.

Scarmon – an avid runner – asked whether the podiatrist made inquiries into how physically active I was. Again, he hadn’t.

Scarmon then reminded me that I was more physically active than probably the typical person with severe looking bunions. At the time I was logging 10,000 miles plus a year bicycling. This was back in 1986. If you were bicycling back then on road bikes you would know that the only cycling cleats you could find were for people with narrow or normal feet. My feet happen to be wider than the Mississippi River.

Rest assured even if I didn’t have wide feet with bunions my feet would still have hurt after bicycling 100 miles on a 100-degree day in mid-August.

I didn’t have the surgery.

Thirty-three years I still have large bunions that make grown men wince when they see them. I also now have hammertoes from hell. Yet I jog every day, go on long hikes in the High Sierra, and – when the health club is open – take aerobic-style classes three to four times a week.

I’m not going to lie. There are times that my feet hurt. But then again when you are 64 there are lots of times other parts of your body hurt as well.

A few years back my current physician was alarmed when he happened to see my feet. He saw redness that he was concerned might be the sign of infection and referred me to a Bay Area podiatrist that had established a reputation for handling severe bunion issues.

I had x-rays taken as requested and took them with me.

The podiatrist took a look at the x-rays, asked my age, looked me over head to toe real quick, inquired if I bicycled or ran, and then asked if I had looked at the x-rays.

Before I could wisecrack that was what I was paying him to do, he said there was absolutely nothing wrong and that it was clear that I was able to deal with the bunions and hammertoes.

Two different podiatrists had two different conclusions.

Do I respect and take medical advice by physicians and such to heart? Yes. Do I always do what they recommend? No.

I weigh it with what I know about myself — in terms of my body and even mental outlook — against what they are telling me.

A pandemic is a different cat as it is a society-wide health issue where even those that never get sick could infect others.

That said those now espousing rather loudly that everyone should take what medical advice is given us and always follow it without question are wrong.

We need to weigh it and then, if it makes sense to us from what we know about ourselves and what we are willing to risk, buy into it. Again, keep in mind a pandemic somewhat changes such an approach.

But at the same time it also reveals more than a few people as hypocrites these days who insist specific medical advice is absolutely correct essentially because the elected leaders they align themselves with have taken it as the gospel.

It is equally dangerous to follow advice blindly as it is to ignore it on a wholesale basis.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Ceres Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.