This weekend I had a disagreement with my mum about the importance of vaccinations before going to certain regions/countries. The issue came up after two friends of mine were complaining about the numerous jabs they’d had to have before visiting Vietnam. I knew I hadn’t had any last year before going, so assumed (hoped) that it was because I’d had them when I was younger. However, when I later discussed it with my mum she couldn’t remember what I would have had and if I’d had them at all, which I found frustrating but also upsetting. I knew that her lack of memory/knowledge on the subject had nothing to do with not caring about my wellbeing, but I still felt it impossible to justify.
Because of my mum’s upbringing, she did not grow up using medicine found in a typical Western household such as Calpol and Paracetamol. Neither did I. If I had a cold I’d have hot spicy lemon, ginger and honey tea, and wrap up warm until it went away. If I had a fever or stomach bug, it was soft rice porridge and lemon and hot water. For period pains/nausea it was a hot water bottle and herbal tea. I didn’t go to the doctor for any reason (in my memory) until I was about fourteen. I also had a lot of homeopathic remedies. As I’ve grown older, I’ve challenged all of these choices more and more, and it’s become a rare difference in opinion between me and my mum. The thing is, is that though I now have almost no faith (key word, because I think that’s the only thing that makes homeopathy have any effect) in homeopathic remedies, I don’t really resent the fact that I didn’t start taking painkillers until I was almost 18 and that I never relied on any medicine. My childhood health was just the same and I barely missed a day of school from being ill. I don’t think its a bad trait to be weary of what you are putting into your body.
However, I do feel very different about vaccinations for diseases like typhoid and rabies. If it’s recommended to have those vaccinations before going to a certain area, it shouldn’t be a debate whether or not to give them to your children. I was shocked at my mum’s attitude towards them. I knew there wasn’t anything to be gained by being bitter about it, because it will never be in my parents’ power to decide these things again, and I didn’t ever contract any of those diseases. Nevertheless, I was furious at first. It felt like my mum’s difference in attitude and stubbornness to avoid Western medical advice had put my life in danger as a young child when I wasn’t able to make decisions for myself. Since the argument, I’ve also spoken to my dad and now feel more reassured, because he didn’t have the same stance and said that he had researched the recommended jabs, but that I was too young to receive them.
Medicine and healthcare choices create a focal point for the cultural differences that exist within my family and that have influenced my upbringing. I hadn’t realised how relevant the subject is for my FMP until this argument, but having thought about it more I want to consider the ways I could use it within my work. I might look at the packaging and claims of two contrasting products such as Paracetemol and Tiger Balm, each common things found in typical Western or Southeast Asian households. As I have had to postpone my interview with my mum until next weekend, I may add some questions relating to medicine and healthcare to those I’d already planned.