I come from a driven immigrant family. During a recent podcast interview with the ever-gracious Dr. Nii Darko, we discussed the pressures we felt with being the first generation raised in our families' adopted country, and the responsibility we inherited to realize our parents' dreams of success.
Our professional careers, for better or worse, commonly become the validation our parents seek for the sacrifices they made to provide us with America's unique opportunities. Long story short: on one side of my family alone (including those who married into the family) I count five physicians in my generation.
This unexpected bounty of medical professionals has become an unlikely source of amusement for our family, thanks to a certain family member who has taken dining at the buffet of free medical advice and elevated it to a new level of absurdity.
A call from this family member proceeds by template, as if perversely adapted from a telemarketer's script:
Family member: I've felt terrible for the last 24 hours. [Goes on to describe symptoms of the common cold].
Me: Have you taken any medicines to see if they help your symptoms?
Family member: No, I don't like to put chemicals in my body.
Me: I'm so sorry, that sounds dreadful. I genuinely hope you make a speedy recovery.
Family member: [Not about to let me off the hook that easily]. What do you think is the best way to treat my illness?
Me: Lots of fluids, tylenol, motrin and rest. I'd also see your doctor if you aren't better in a couple of days. [Feeling proud to have dodged a bullet.]
Family member: [Firing another bullet.] But I've already tried all of those remedies, and I'm not feeling any better.
Me: [What happened to not putting chemicals into your body?] It's still early in the course of your illness. If you are truly getting worse over the next several days, you'd want to see your doctor so they could make sure you aren't developing a condition like pneumonia, which is something I unfortunately am unable to diagnose by phone.
Family member: Would you recommend antibiotics?
Me: [So restricted chemicals are solicited by your body?] Not without being able to examine you in person to diagnose a condition that required them, like a pneumonia. [Feeling proud of my responsible stewardship of antibiotics].
Family member: That's funny.
Family member: Because I spoke to your cousin so-and-so by phone yesterday two hours after my fever started and he called me in a Z-pack.
Me: I see.
Family member: I started to feel better twenty minutes after I took the first pill.
Me: Uh huh. [I tell her how nice it's been to catch up, and make an excuse to get off the phone.]
Sometimes providing free medical advice to family feels like being part of a circular firing squad.