We Need A Medical Study To Study Medical Studies


Unless you've decided to skip the evening news in favor of something less painless -- like say, beating your head against the wall, -- you've seen medical studies that reversed everything we were told by the 10 previous ones that investigated the same thing.

Frankly, I don't trust medical studies. I've seen too many of them that sound like (sorry, Doc) medical horse hockey.

Take the Fresh Air Theory I ran into as a kid.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I got shipped to upstate New York one summer by a New York City outfit called the Fresh Air Fund. Those Fresh Air Fund folks seemed to think that big-city kids didn't get enough fresh air, so each summer they rounded up a herd of us and packed us off to the country for a few weeks of healthful breathing.

It didn't make any sense to me. The city kids I knew got plenty of fresh air, summer or winter. It blew in off New York Harbor -- wet, wild and sometimes downright glacial.

As we hiked to school on some icy winter mornings, we got enough fresh air to last a lifetime. You should have seen the stampede when the first bell rang and we piled into the school. I'll bet our teachers thought we were after an education. What we were after was central heating.

A theory that the medical people of my day swallowed hook, line and sinker was the reported health benefits of fresh air.

Maybe it was a hangover from the Dark Ages when people had no idea that the world is populated by tiny little critters which spend their days trying to infect us so they can eat us.

Yep, that's what bacteria do, you know. For them, we're food. And they succeed at it too dang often for my liking!

For example, you and I know that malaria is caused by a bug that gets into you if you get bitten by an infected mosquito. But our ancestors thought it was bad air (mala-bad and aria-air) that got us. Bad smelling air from swamps and marshes, see?

Apparently it takes medical science a long time to get rid of some ideas, because long after we had learned about germs, they still believed that you could combat sicknesses by opening all the windows and blowing the bad air off to the North Pole.

That, I learned about the hard way. Twice, no less.

First time came when my mother, going along with another belief of the day, put me in the hospital one icy February morning to have my perfectly good tonsils removed.

Actually, the operation wasn't too bad, though I didn't much care for the enema that came with it. I was unlucky enough to draw a nurse who thought that little kids didn't have enough soapy water in them until they looked like gas-filled parade balloons.

The operation itself, however, was a piece of cake.

"Can you count, Tommy?"


"Count backwards from a hundred as I hold this little tea strainer over your nose."

"Okay. One hundred, ninety-ni...."

That's as far as I got. I woke up in a bed. A nurse came by and asked how I felt. I croaked out a complaint, but she smiled and said, "That's okay. You'll feel better in the morning. And we've got nice, hot oatmeal for you!"

Oh joy!

Then she smiled again, walked over to the window and slid it open. In February!

That was bad enough, but she walked across the ward and opened one on the other side too, letting in a gale.

And then she walked down the entire ward, opening every last window in the place! In blew the entire New York Harbor, including a couple of ferry boats, as icy wind whipped the thin sheets over 20 little kids into a frenzy of flapping cotton.

I was supposed to leave at noon the next day. I spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from a "severe chest infection."


A couple of years later, while working as the catcher in a game of stickball on another chilly winter day, I stepped a little too close to the batter.

Now, stickball may be baseball played with broomsticks and tennis balls in hopes of preserving the windows in the neighborhood, but let me tell you from first-hand experience, a well swung maple broomstick can make a serious impression on the head of a dumb eight-year-old.

Four kids carried me home, out cold. When I woke up I had two heads, my original and one that had sprouted where the broomstick landed. Mom put ice on it and it went away after three days.

The black eyes lasted longer. The kids called me The Raccoon.

And then the lump came back. Soft this time, but just as big.

Mom took me to a doctor, he sent me to a hospital, and the doctor in the hospital stuck me in the head with two needles -- a little one that hurt like blue blazes and a big one that didn't hurt but drew a lot of blood out of my head.

A lot!

"He should stay overnight," the doctor told my mother.

So they fed me, and chunked me into bed, and I slid under a sheet, ready to do some serious sleeping.

No such luck. Here came another nurse intent on acquainting little kids with the winter wonderland called New York Harbor.

You guessed it. Another two weeks in the hospital.

So don't bother to tell me about some medical study that says they've had it all wrong for the past 50 years.

I know! I know!

Commenting has been disabled for this item.