HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap. It was originally published on February 20, 2014 with the title, “I don’t know what to call this.”
I was going through the files on my laptop looking for something specific and I ran across a picture that I saved from 2007. I won’t post it here, because it makes my stomach turn, but content note: graphic descriptions of infections and medical neglect.
My parents stopped taking us to doctors before I was 10. They believed that god told them doctors were evil, to go to doctors was to not have faith in god’s ability and will to heal the sick. Along with that, came the belief that if you were sick, it likely had something to do with sin in your life. Both of these came from James 5.
So, anytime we got sick, we did that. We’d have dad pray for us, literally anoint us with extra virgin olive oil, and then make sure we didn’t have any unconfessed sins. Ex: a cancer sore we could have because we “talked back”.
Because my parents didn’t believe in doctors, they also didn’t believe in medicine, because there is a greek word called Pharmakeia which is where the word pharmacy is derived from, but also means witchcraft. My parents made the jump to then decide that any medication, including ibuprofen and tylenol is evil, because witchcraft.
(side note: just writing this all out now is making me feel sick. First, I can’t believe I remember these arguments so well, and secondly, I just, I can’t, it’s so stupid)
We had one bottle of children’s chewable aspirin on hand, they reasoned THAT was okay because it’s from bark, not chemicals, and because one of my sisters was prone to migraines that resulted in vomiting – but that was only for dire emergencies.
My mom had “natural” remedies, like tea tree oil, oil of oregano, and Werther’s hard candies (for sore throats << that one I’m not complaining about, actually, it was candy). Stuff that 1) doesn’t actually make sense and 2) is not located anywhere near the pharmacy area in the grocery store.
(side note: it took Alex so long to get me to take ibuprofen for migraines because of this.)
So, when I was 16 and a half, I had this horrible horrible infection on my leg. I could not move. It was swollen and oozing and painful, any movement at all was excruciating (and no painkillers), it swelled so much that my thigh didn’t look like part of my leg anymore, it was some weird mutated…thing.
My parents believed it was boils, like Job had (Job 2:7)
So, they prayed for me, anointed me with oil, asked about my sins, which I couldn’t think of and then….the fun started.
Remember: no medicine, no doctors, nothing. My mom decided we had to keep the infection clean (makes sense), so, she would push and squeeze the abscess until puss came out of it (so. fucking. painful.), then she would put oil of oregano in and around the wound because it was a “topical pain reliever” and “antiseptic”, I’m pretty sure hydrogen peroxide happened too. Basically I just remember my siblings complaining that I smelled like spaghetti (maybe that’s why I hate it so much).
It was deep, and there was a good bit of blood – it was blue and swollen around the..head? I still have a visible scar from that first one. And the second one.
This went on from the time I was 16 and a half until I was 18 – it didn’t start fully clearing up until I left home, though it had gone down in intensity.
The second one, was right below the first, had two heads (which I think had more to do with my mom PHYSICALLY SQUEEZING THE ABSCESS than anything else) each wound was big enough you could put a pencil eraser in (I still have that scar too), and there was like, a flesh bridge between the two holes, so they were connected /open at the bottom/inside the wound, but on the top there was a little bit of skin that kept it from being a fucking gash.
After the first one though, my parents were less concerned, and I managed to move – while still in excruciating amounts of pain with no recourse – and do chores and go places and manage.
As time passed and I continued to get these and they continued to leave scars and I continued to function in large amounts of pain, my mom started commenting on how my legs looked.
Because, due to the scars – and random abscesses, they looked polka-dotted. So, I wore only jeans or ankle-length skirts (or tights) so as to hide the hideousness of my infected legs. (This continued well into my marriage, in fact I think it was around a year before I stopped wearing exclusively jeans and wore skirts/dresses that were above my knee, because of that reason.)
I walked for 10 hours in boots with an abscess on my knee (it was not fun and towards the end of the day I was having a really hard time walking/keeping up with the group, but being carried was not Teenpact Appropriate). Some of my skirts had stains from them.
I passed up an opportunity to intern with Teenpact after that trip because of my legs and knowing I wouldn’t have the stamina required to wear heels and walk all day.
They were frequent but became smaller – I started to be able to get to them before they developed into something bigger.
This whole time though, over a year and a half – no one thought anything of it, no one thought to maybe get it checked out, this infection that didn’t go away – this thing that we’re calling boils and figure it has something to do with god, and not providing any kind of relief from the pain, I just had to suck it up and deal with it, and I did.
Our second year together, my legs and scars were healing and I was wearing shorts and short skirts and my parents would always comment on my legs – “oh, it looks like they’re clearing up!” which actually just reminded me that my legs might still be unseemly and polka dotted.
I realized, yesterday, after digging up that picture on accident, that my infection, much like my teeth, was something that they had the power to stop and chose not to. Instead they chose to shame me about it and give me the bare minimum of help (if oregano oil and being made fun of because of it counts as help) because of their religion.
The first two scars are shiny and feel weirdly smooth, but are fading.
This is horrible! Did you ever figure out what caused them? Have you spoken to a doctor since? I wonder if ten days of antibiotics would have cured them.
I am so sorry! What an easy problem to be solved. I am sorry that you were made to suffer because of silliness!
Wow, I am so sorry you had to go through this! I am an RN, and I can tell you that this could have turned into something very serious if the infection had spread to your blood stream or your bone. Thankfully you were young and healthy enough that it didn’t come to that, but that was a real possibility. With early intervention, those types of infections can usually be effectively treated with a short course of oral
antibiotics. My daughter had an infection in her foot, and after just a day of antibiotics (and ibuprofen for pain) the swelling and discomfort was significantly reduced, and she had no no further troubles after completing a 5 day course. Your parents put you at serious risk by not seeking out a very simple and inexpensive treatment, not to mention all the unnecessary suffering.
At which point, they would have anointed Kyrsten with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and prayed over her and try to get her to confess her Secret Sin and rebuked the DEMONS of Septicemia until she died. At which point, “God Took Her. God’s Will.” (Followed by Persecution by the Heathen Gubmint; Rally Round the Bible, Boyos!)
Reblogged this on lit! and commented:
Reflecting on the following HomeschoolerAnonymous post:
You see, when you get saved, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside you and He guides you, except when He doesn’t. When you read the Bible and pray every day, you grow in wisdom and insight so you can allow your children to suffer from severe pain and skin problems. Of course, if you’re reading this, you probably don’t know anyone who believes Tylenol is evil, which is why you won’t consider that this post is a symbol for numerous other injustices recorded on this site, caused by people who know the Word.
Meanwhile, of course, most of the world’s brown people, not being Christian, apparently are going to experience conscious eternal torment. Actually, most people of all time are going to experience conscious eternal torment. Enjoy church tomorrow!
I identified with this story so much. My parents did not think medication was witchcraft, they just thought that “natural” medications were better and, of course, cheaper. They considered themselves able to diagnose and treat most of our childhood illnesses themselves, with the help of lots of herbal remedies, a stethoscope, an otoscope, thermometer, and some sort of hippie-derived home healthcare book.
Anyway, when I was in about ten, I got an infection (impetigo) on my leg, something that can easily be treated with an antibiotic wash. Except in my family. No, instead my mother tried various herbal poultices on it, with no success. It enlarged to the size of a quarter, oozy and scabby like something out of a horror film, something that would cause a normal parent to run, not walk, their kid to the doctor. Then a like-minded mom suggested that an old time remedy for this type of thing was to apply walnut juice to the wound. Guess what, walnut juice is an acid that causes severe chemical burns. But my mom didn’t bother to research this it was natural, so it must be all good, right? I can to this day tell you that nothing more physically painful has ever happened to me than having walnut juice poured onto this open wound. I was screaming to high heaven and have a nasty scar to this day.
Two infuriating things about this irrational distrust of modern medical treatments. (1) it only applied to us, not our parents. My dad was in blood pressure medication and regularly saw a doctor for sinus problems, while my mom had numerous ailments and back pain for which she was on medications and had surgeries. I’ve since learned that this is common–parents with this mindset are willing to put their children through pain on principal while they themselves seek treatment for their own illnesses. (2) my homeschooled siblings are now doing the same thing to their children. I watched my niece go for months with an infected wound that was being “treated” with natural remedy poultices that were probably found on some internet crackpot site.
Horrible! Not only is medical neglect inexcusable, but they should have taken you to a doctor to have the abscesses lanced. Squeezing an abscess could have caused dangerous bacteria to enter your bloodstream.
This makes me wonder about the cases of families who never took their children to doctors. Alecia Pennington’s family never took them, and the Stanley family of Arkansas who have currently have 7 children removed from the home for undisclosed reasons never took the kids to a doctor.
My question is this: the Stanleys and the Penningtons said none of their kids ever needed to go to the doctor, so what is the definition of not needing the doctor? Kiery – would your parents say that you never needed the doctor?
I think the Stanleys and Penningtons may be blowing smoke about this many kids never getting sick ever, but i also wonder about their definition of sick. It may be different than the general populations definition, or for that matter the medical communitys definition.
Oh wow. This sounds not dis-similar to my own experience. Fortunately for me though the one time I came down with something life threatening I was staying with friends who’s mother took me to the doctor asap. My mother on the other hand…
Very glad for you it didn’t kill you.