Eleven years ago, the Twin Towers came crashing down in a cloud of black and grey smoke. The world will never forget the scene of a man falling alongside one of the towers, and we will never be able to imagine the horror and desperation of the nearly three thousand people trapped inside. That was a war under the sun, the bright sun of September 11th, which led the US into wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, killing thousands more innocent civilians in collateral damage over the past 11 years and saddling the US with $4 trillions in debt, more collateral damage that has surely put the US deeper into today’s economic trap. Costly revenge!
This is a war, a war everyone can see and acknowledge. But there are other fatal wars that are not as easily seen and seldom noticed, such as the abuse of antibiotics. Antibiotics were invented in the mid-20th century as a gift and blessing for humanity, much in the same way as the Trojan Horse, a trophy pulled into the city filled with Greek soldiers hidden in its belly. The abuse of antibiotics is breaking our immune system down by weakening or destroying our basic health foundation, just like the horse was hiding Troy’s defeat in its belly.
I have had a cold for five days now. Last Thursday night, I started to feel hot at home. I thought it was because I had closed the air-conditioner, so I turned it on again. After two hours of cold air blowing at 21 degrees, the house was still hot and I had started to sweat. My son came home and reminded me that I might have caught the cold like his girlfriend, so I found the thermometer and discovered that I did have a high fever: 38.8 degrees Celsius. I went to Wikipedia and read about what to do with cold. It is not an ailment caused by bacteria, therefore antibiotics would not help at all.
I video-chatted with my father Friday morning and told him that that I had a cold. The first thing my dad asked me was if I had taken antibiotics! I said no and explained why. But they still urged me to go get some in order to get better faster. In China, they do not know that almost all antibiotics in the Western world are under the control of doctors. If we think we need some, we have to get a doctor’s permission. The doctors here do not listen to us and they are very careful in prescribing antibiotics for ailments such as mine. so hard luck, I said to them, I would die! My mother was curious and asked me what I would do to get better. I take Ibuprofen to kill the pain in my swollen glands that are fighting the war for me as the first lines of defense. I need sleep to get better, and I cannot sleep because of the battle going on in my throat! I love the green capsule of Ibuprofen that immediately soothes my burning throat, leaving me with tranquility and no collateral damage.
As Sunday passed, I stopped feeling pain in my throat! I have seldom suffered a cold with fever over the past 20 years, but this time, it was an enormous event in my life. I felt that time had stopped in front of me and stared at me as if I was unbearably ugly. I looked messy and old, but it was worth the patience to let the glands and other immune system organs to fight for me, instead of employing imported munitions earlier than necessary. The basic foundation for our health is the immune system, and that needs to be protected and trained like an army, so when the enemies come it can fight back and protect our health. I felt very happy to have followed the health science in curing myself with no abuse of antibiotics.
When we are young, we sometimes live our lives half asleep. Many things happen to us but it always seemed like everything would be all right. We would only start sweating and panicking when we became conscious about the gravity of the situation. The abuse of antibiotics has left us sweating and wondering what if…
My son is now 23 years old. The two weeks after he was born were such an unimaginable nightmare that I could not have written this article without talking about the experience. I had come down with a low fever after we took our son home from a ten-day stay in the hospital following a caesarean section. The low fever was constant and refused to go away. Clearly there was an infection somewhere, so I went back to the hospital for a checkup.
Upon arrival, the doctor hospitalized me and gave me an antibiotic drip without first performing any tests. The drip went on for five days without bringing down my fever. The worst part was that my son was alone at home with his 25 year-old young father! I was in a true half asleep status and five days passed without thinking too much about how my newborn son was doing at home. Being a new mom, frankly, I did not have much sense about how to be a mom. The motherly love is usually gained and learned only after the child is born, but my son was not there for me to learn the sense of a mother. I was all alone in the hospital receiving an antibiotic drip that went into my body like water. On the fifth day the temperature was still 39°, exactly the same as the day I went in. Finally, the doctor made some tests and gave me some small pills, still antibiotics, but another kind according to the tests. The temperature came down three hours after taking the first pill and the next day I was out to be with my son.
The look of my son gave me shivers when I got home. He was small and skinny, all white with very pinky-red lips. He did not smile, staring instead at me without moving his eyes much. I found out that he had been spewing milk and having diarrhea for two days, which the inexperienced dad thought was normal for newborn babies. That evening I threatened his dad into bringing our son to the hospital. It usually took about two hours for them to go and come back home, but two and half hours went by and I was still alone lying in bed at home. We had no cellular phones at that time. I was so worried that I went quickly to the hospital myself.
When I arrived, I saw that the nurses were shaving my son’s head! What were they doing? I saw through the glass window that my son’s hands and feet were covered in white bands; the nurses were trying their best to find a blood vessel for an injection Oh, my lord, I though, not antibiotics for such a little newborn! A small plastic bag with yellowish liquid was hanging on a metal support. It was not quite to my surprise that he was undergoing something serious, though not serious enough to make me guess a blood transfusion. My son was diagnosed with third degree loss of body fluid and an imbalance of acid and base. The doctor told us that he could have died if he had come in just a few hours later.
My beautiful niece is in Italy right now, studying at the Politecnico di Milano. Her primary and high school education was accompanied by these antibiotic drips whenever she was sick. I was not sure if her mother, who is a doctor, had her undergo testing before the use of antibiotics or if she thought for a second about whether antibiotics were the right solution at all, although I would love to believe that she did. Every time she was sick, she was brought to the hospital where her mother works and was hooked up to a drip. Antibiotic drips had become a religion in China for all kinds of health problems big and small. For the poor school kids, it had become a quick solution for them to return to their classrooms faster, because no one wants their kids to miss schools or lessons, otherwise, they would have lagged behind the others.
Even though we all suffer the abuse, some like us are lucky to have survived this horrible cure. In even the most developed countries, antibiotics abuse gives patients serious adverse side effects, including organ failure, incurable conditions, and even death. A hefty percentage of antibiotics prescriptions are not necessary, and China ranks the highest for antibiotics drug abuse among the countries of the world. “Only around 20 percent of patients require antibiotics, but recent statistics show as many as 70 percent of Chinese in-patients using the drugs. The maximum recommended by the World Health Organization is 30 percent.” Even though China started to crack down the abuse last month, the goal will be hard to achieve without people having a good knowledge about the functions and side effects. In An Hui province, a devastating tragedy that led a worker to kill his pneumonia doctor was caused indirectly and partly by the abuse of antibiotics. He discovered that his early and improper antibiotics treatment in Shenzhen had caused a resistance to normal antibiotics and that he had to pay astronomic prices for imported medicine without the guarantee that he would be cured.
This is a war, an invisible war against ignorance and non-professional doctors, against laziness and profit over concerns for people’s health and wellbeing. Even as patients, we need to at least have a grasp on the basics of health science, in order to fight harder when needed to avoid greedy doctors who push the sales of new antibiotics. We need to be attentive to and patient during our illnesses, and suffer that which we have to go through. Certain suffering is not all bad, compared to long-term irreversible damage to our health. We need to keep our immune systems stronger, give it a change to practice, to train itself to be strong soldiers for our bodies. All medicines are there to help save our lives when we are in danger, but it is ultimately our immune system that truly sustains our body and maintains our health, not the antibiotics. If the system is gone, antibiotics can do nothing. When nowadays the busy life style seems indispensable, the one and the only indispensable is our life and its protector – our immune system!