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Over medicated — but alive!

Modern medicine is miraculous. 
I was among the millions of people watching Monday Night Football last week, Jan. 2, when a terrifying scene took place. Damar Hamlin, a Buffalo Bills player, collapsed on the ground after a tackle. His heart stopped. CPR had to be administered. Players from both teams surrounded him, looking out to the spectators, creating a veil of privacy. An ambulance came on the field to transport Hamlin to the hospital. According to media reports, his heart stopped and was resuscitated a second time.

On Friday morning, Jan. 6, Hamlin’s breathing tube was removed and he was having FaceTime conversations with individual teammates and later the whole team. No cognitive impairment was observed. Indeed, when Hamlin first woke up but was still intubated, he wrote on a paper: “Who won the game?”

When I heard all this I, like so many others, was nearly moved to tears. My next thought was to marvel. How is this man, whose heart stopped twice and had to be revived twice, having video chats a mere four days later? Released from hospital a week later?

To be sure, Hamlin, a devout Christian, would credit in large part G-d and the spiritual power of the millions of prayers sent his way. I agree to the power of prayer. But also — medicine. Forget a century ago; a mere 40 years ago, would this man be alive? Intact neurologically?

It was a good reminder because I can often be a skeptic when it comes to modern medicine, and specifically to the pharma industry. As medicine has progressed, medications have multiplied. Especially when compared with other parts of the world, Americans seem to be hooked on pills. There’s also the contemporary tendency to pathologize every single behavior, followed, conveniently by a pharmaceutical remedy. I wonder how healthy all this is.

Then, as a reaction, we see all kinds of radical diets and pseudoscience, with the most extreme manifestation being the anti-vaxxer movement. I guess I’m somewhere in the middle: preferring natural remedies where possible, but when those will or do not suffice, I don’t hesitate to avail myself of modern medicine.

Maybe we are over-medicated these days; if that’s the price to pay for someone like Hamlin having his life back, the benefits outweigh the costs. But we need to figure out a way to continue pursuing medical advancement without creating an over-dependency on medication.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at [email protected]

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