No More Orphans: How we Benefit from Continuous Medical Advancements

A few years ago, I was kept awake at nights by this wacky feeling in my legs. It drove me crazy. The rest of my body wanted to fall asleep but my legs wanted to take a long walk. “Come on, you stupid legs. I need to get up at 5:00 am!” There wasn’t any pain, and my legs worked fine during the day. So, I didn’t worry about something being horribly wrong. I was underinsured at the time, which is why I also didn’t rush to the doctor. Besides, I felt sure that my doctor would just scratch her head and say, “Hmm. That’s strange.” I didn’t want to waste her time.

Medical Advancements

Medical Advancements | Image: U.S. Embassy, Manila Philippines

I was a workaholic at the time; I still am, but no longer in denial. At home, the television was a giant screen in the family room that played movies on occasion and entertained the kids. I almost never watched TV. One day, I plopped in front of the television, dead tired, to watch anything. I didn’t care. An advertisement came on that talked about a new prescription drug for “restless leg syndrome.” I jumped off the couch and shouted, “That’s what I’ve got!” Not only did my frustration have a name, it had a treatment.

No One Likes Being Left Out

Since that time, I have become more aware of the advances medicine makes on health problems and diseases of which few people are aware of. About twenty years ago, I had a good friend who had another weird problem no one had heard of called celiac disease. She explained how gluten would mow down the villi in her small intestine, which results to malabsorption that leads to malnutrition and disease. I told her that I had never heard of it. She said, “Yeah, I know. It’s an orphan disease. I know more about it than my doctor.” I felt for her.

Fast-forward only a few years and every doctor knows about celiac disease. The medical community has come to her rescue; and even rallied the FDA to set up standards for “gluten-free” on labeling.

Where Will It Stop?

I have a brother and now a son in the medical industry. They are constantly telling me about the latest thing. According to them, they are only reporting on a few of the thousands of innovations that come out each year in the form of new drugs, devices, procedures, and therapies. I joked with my brother about the financial motivation that obviously drives this kind of creativity. He didn’t laugh. He explained that, as a doctor, 100-hour workweeks were common for him. “Sure, we make money. But who wouldn’t with those kinds of hours.” The money makes it easier, but most do it for the challenge and, believe it or not, they really like helping people. Our conversation lasted until late at night until he received a call from the hospital–another sleepless night. Since that conversation, I have paid close attention to the medical industry. It allows me to talk to my son for longer than two minutes before he goes over my head. As far as I can tell, the medical community is a juggernaut that won’t slow down until man becomes immortal or we quit paying for it.

Don’t Bite the Hand That Heals Us

The only way to slow down medical progress, from what I can see, is if we let shortsighted government policy dig into the profits that fund the advances we enjoy. Even though medical engineers, chemists, scientists, and doctors may be altruistic, they do need money to function as a business. Take a look at the advances in medicine. More than likely, you or someone you love is here because of them. As the government gets more involved in health care, make sure they don’t start making changes that affect health care’s ability to innovate, invent, and save lives.

Claire Hunt is a freelance blogger. She covers several topics, including addiction, diseases, and other factors that influence overall health. She also writes about Overstock Healthcare Products by CIA Medical, a company that provides branded medical supplies.

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