The New York Times has an article today highlighting the fact that traditional healers — curanderas — have been busily providing care to sick and injured undocumented Latinos.
The people need help because they are in the United States illegally and because they are poor. Few have health insurance, but the backbreaking nature of their work, along with the toxicity of American poverty, insure that many are ailing.
They may visit a clinic or hospital if they are severely ill. But for many undocumented immigrants, much of their health care is provided by a parallel system of spiritual healers, home remedies and self-medication.
Stories abound here of people who died — of cancer, diabetes, even gangrene — because they did not make it to an emergency room until it was too late…
Immigrants… said they had faced numerous obstacles to pursuing conventional medical care. Above all, they said, was cost, but other factors included fear of deportation, long waits for treatment in medically underserved areas, and barriers of culture and language.
I can hear the grumbles from the Hazleton Zeitgeist already saying tough noogies if they can’t go and get regular medical care because what are they doing here illegally anyway? However, what goes around tends to come around:
Public health officials also worry that the lack of access to conventional care may contribute to the spread of communicable diseases. They warn that the rampant use of antibiotics, often without medical direction, may speed the development of resistant bacterial strains.
To me anyway, the noogies are indeed tough. Far be it from me to pass judgment on alternative healing modalities about which I know little, but it seems the curandera approach to diagnosis as mentioned in the article is a bit too — right-brained for me. Curandera Herminia L. Arenas explained that
…cures come to her…in a flash of revelation, sometimes as she studies the movements of a broken egg yolk.
I’ll think of that if and when antibiotic-resistant strains of diseases course through the population.