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Journal of Nursing

My Father the Medicine Man 

My Life Experience with Eastern and Western Medicine by Cynthia Knievel, RN [email protected]


Those who read my autobiography may ask, "Why would I have My Father the Medicine Man" the title of my autobiography.
It is plain and simple as far as I understand it to be and now I would like to explain why. 


It all begins with my roots and experiences I had growing up with my father as a health fanatic. His interest in alternative health and medicine formed who I am and the reason for the path I am taking. It was the usual routine to wake up every morning and have before me a minimum of 5 herbal pills and B pollen sprinkled atop my cereal to be followed with freshly squeezed orange juice with barely green mixed in it. God bless my father's efforts for including the freshly squeezed OJ because I would not have been able to drink it if it wasn't for that added benefit.  I can not forget to add the night cap of 1/8 cup of codliver oil. Little did he know that my sister and I dumped it down the sink when he was not looking. I have to thank my older sister for teaching me how to avoid taking the cod liver oil without our father knowing. And thank goodness this was a night cap only because my father was too tired from farming all day to notice what we were up to.  I have decided that my father's interest and use of alternative medicine probably began in 1975 when his wife and my mother passed away at the age of 26. However, I could be wrong  and maybe this tragic event has no relevence to his alternative medicine path. I do know one thing for sure, our past always holds the key to our future and I was given two keys that opened two doors for me. The first key opening a door to alternative or Eastern medicine and the second key opening a door to modern or western medicine.
 
In February of 1975 my mother, sister, and I were admitted to the hospital for pnuemonia. While hospitalized, my sister and I were making good progress but our mother was still having some trouble breathing. The doctor was out of town on his vacation. One of the nurses working at the hospital at this time, states there were attempts to contact this docotor regarding my mother's lack of improvement but no success.  Evidently, someone eventually must have been contacted because  a nurse did later come in and give my mother a hypo (IM shot).  As the story goes, according to my father, my mother was alert and visiting pleasantly with him but still some short of breath. He states he left the room to make a phone call while the nurse gave the shot. Upon returning to my mother's room approximately 15 minutes later, he found her not breathing and unresponsive.  To this day I do not know what was in that hypo, but as a nurse I have  theories. My first and foremost thought is that it was a sedative to calm her down but instead completely wiped out her respiratory drive. My second theory is that it was an antibiotic that she was allergic to.  Her death certificate states cause of death as Respiratory Failure. My father so devistated, did not have the wits about him to have an autopsy performed  despite several family members and even one of the nurses encouraging him to. As a new LPN grad in 1993, I did review her hospital records but could not make sense of these records and came home without answers to the cause of her death. Unfortunately back then I did not have the maturity or knowledge of hospital records as I due now and those records are now long gone.   This is when I believe my father began relying on alternative medicine to treat any of our illnesses and in fact prevent any illness.
 
At the age of 23 months the first key opened the first door for me and it was alternative medicine. Over the next sixteen years I followed my father's foot steps and took much interest in alternative health, whether it be prevention or treatment.    I found myself at a very young age studying health problems and what the treatment and cure was. Any illness I had was treated by my father through alternative health and medicine. He had everything and anything you needed. If I had a sore throat he would open up his cupboard and have just the right stuff. I might have to rub some oils on my throat and take an extra 5 pills in addition to my maintenance supplements but it worked and my father was proud. Ironically, around the age of 14  I choose my career path and it was nursing.  My cousin was my idol and she pointed out to me all the wonderful benefits of the medical field. She was going to college to be a nurse and so then was I. I was very goal oriented at a young age and I knew that the career I chose  would have to be one that made good money and one in demand.  Nursing definately seemed perfect since I already had some knowledge of pathophysiology of disease and cure passed down to me by my father. The only difference was I would be studying western medicine.


So, with this second key I opened another door and it was to western medicine.  In 1993 I graduated with my LPN diploma. One good thing about 1993 was getting  to wear a nursing hat and white uniform.  I still think we should wear those hats but I have not found any other nurse to agree with me. I do however continue to wear the white uniform. The next 4 years I was a charge nurse for a nursing home.  That pharmacology class in college really paid off for this job because each evening I passed multiple medications to multiple residents in a short amount of time.   I realize now that my past loss of my mother was effecting my nursing career.  I felt she would have survived if the nurses and doctor would have been more attentive to her.  I was on a mission to make sure this was not going to happen to any of the residents but this task proved overwhelming.  I became angered and felt all alone in my crusade for patient advocacy. In my mind there were 73 residents and only one of me.  Why were we passing a dozen or more pills to each of these residents anyway? My father and even my pharmacology class taught me that medications have many side effects. It was quite obvious to me that half of these pills were to counteract the side effects of the other medications. Why not safely eliminate some of these medications and therefore free up more time to spend with the resident. So, in 1997 I began working for the local rural hospital and I continue to work at this same hospital.
 
This hospital was the very same hospital where my mother died. One of the nurses that I work with remembers the admission of my mother, my sister, and I to the hospitial in 1975.  She even shared with me that my sister and I were in room 244 together and my mother was in 238.  I try not to think of my mother when I take care of my patients in this room.  Hospital work is a lot different than nursing home work.  As a LPN I was assigned to the medical surgical floor. I was very satisfied with this work. I felt I had more control and my patients were getting good care. However, my past was still effecting me. The well being of my patients consumed me and I was definately going to make sure their care and well being was protected. I was every patients best nurse but I suspicion that I was a royal pain in the butt for some of the supervisors.  I could sense  the supervisors frustration when I brought my may concerns to them. This confused me because I felt a nuses role was to be the patients advocate. Here again I was going to prevent any harm from my patients. I realize now that my past was overpowering me. I did slowly learn to trust more and tamed my fear of harm and death. I received my RN degree in 2000 and the hospital reimbursed me for most of it. I found my calling upon opening the door to this degree and it was obstetrics. This was one field where it is a must that you are a patient advocate for 2 pateints and the supervisors and doctors don't mind this.  To this day I thoroughly enjoy obstretrics but they come far and few between in a rural hospital.  2 to 3 deliveries a month is our average and that is good considering our hospital is in a town with a population of between 1600 to 1700. I do have to say that as a RN for a rural hospital your role is unique in comparison to the larger city hospitals. You are responsible for ER, med surg, obstetrics, post surgicals, pediatrics, geriatrics, cardiac clinic, ambulance, and more. I feel proud that I now have 9 years experience in all of this.
 
In 2006 I returned to the same nursing home that I worked for between 1989 and 1997. But this time I was Director of Nursing. My number one goals were to improve patient care and employee working conditions. Initially all my goals were becoming accomplished but I soon found out that I was fighting a battle that could not be won.  The beast I was fighting was corporate. I did not stand a chance with patient advocacy as my best asset.
 
I returned back to the hospital in 2007 where I am now working in the cardiopulmonary, diabetes, anticoagulation clinic department. Perfect for me because I have become an educator in disease prevention and I have to thank my father for all the interest I have in this area. I also cont. to work on the nursing floor with obstetrics, med surg, peds, geriatrics,  post surgicals, or wherever the supervisor assigns me for the day.
 
Over the course of 16 years as nurse practicing western medicine I have gained trust in this medicine, have seen many benefits, and realize there is a time and place for it.  Over my lifetime I have also greatly benefited personally from alternative medicine. My father continues to avoid western medicine as much as he can and there is no convincing him any different. I only hope that the next key given to me will open a door where Eastern and Western medicine will compliment each other. Health care would have the best of both worlds if this would happen.

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