Well I thought it was neat!


Staring this guy down all night long would likely put anybody’s problems
into perspective. (Source: Mika Brandt, Unsplash)


It is simply breathtaking to look back on two decades of medical practice and appreciate some of the things that drive patients to seek a physician’s attention. I have had folks with snakebites, active strokes, gunshot wounds and evolving heart attacks aplenty inexplicably report to my humble urgent care clinic for treatment. Most, but not all, of those individuals get a quick ride to the local ER.

I have also had patients become genuinely put out with me should I respectfully refuse to excise their quarter-sized facial lesions or not expeditiously remove their gallbladders in the procedure room because they, “really hate going to the hospital.” I once had an elderly lady tell me that she would sooner die in my waiting room than go back to a hospital. However, on the other end of the spectrum, sometimes a visit to the local sawbones is somewhat more social than medical.

If they are of the proper age and comportment to manage them responsibly, I frequently make inflatable animals for my pediatric patients out of rubber gloves. I derive markedly more enjoyment out of this exercise than do they. On two occasions I have had kids fake illnesses just to get a fresh rubber animal.

While such antics will invariably precipitate the screaming habdabs in mom, these represent some of my proudest moments as a physician. Sometimes, however, grownups will come to the clinic for things that are, shall we say, not terribly critical.

“I can’t describe it,” “I just don’t feel good,” “My (insert random family member) is crazy,” and “My teeth itch” are perennial favorites. In each case, I do my utmost to discern some underlying treatable pathology and proceed accordingly, but sometimes the problem has a more esoteric origin.

We Information Age Americans have become awfully domesticated these days. We are now quite far removed from our rugged hunter-gatherer forebears. Sometimes what we need is not some expensive medication or rarefied medical therapy so much as a hefty dose of perspective. I think after so many years as a small-town doctor I have finally divined the answer.

Behold the implements of America’s game. Under slightly different circumstances,
they could also be viewed as medical instruments. (Source: NeonBrand, Unsplash)

Go North, Young Man

When some verklempt unfortunate reports to the clinic with itchy teeth, sometimes I just want to retrieve my prescription pad and scrawl out, “Lion Therapy — #1, Refill PRN” before scribbling my John Hancock across the bottom. I would then instruct the patient to take the prescription and drive 78 miles north to the Memphis Zoo, planning to arrive at the front gate around closing time. Don’t bring spare clothes or a bag. This novel but effective therapy demands neither.

You present the little medical writ to the gate attendant at which point they usher you back to the big cat enclosures. Once at the lion paddock you are shown into a nicely appointed climate-controlled dressing room painted in soothing pastel colors. In the privacy of your dressing room, you then strip naked and place your clothes and belongings in a secure locker provided for your convenience.

While all this preparation is taking place, the keepers are nearby vigorously feeding the lions. The lions are gorged, having consumed all the Purina Lion Chow they can manage. Once you are divested of all vestiges of civilization to include your cell phone, eyeglasses, beauty products, cross trainers and underpants, the zookeeper issues you with one standard baseball bat. They then plop you into the lion paddock and go home for the night.

Itchy Teeth Be Gone

When the keepers return the following morning, chances are you will not have been eaten. The lions were well-fed, after all. However, armed with nothing but a baseball bat after spending an evening standing naked while being curiously ogled by half a dozen African lions you now have your previous problems in perspective. You have been successfully treated with your first round of lion therapy.

The aforementioned wistful rambling should not be misinterpreted to minimize the import of mental illness or one of several zillion serious medical maladies that can manifest in ways that are both ethereal and mild. But compared to the rugged individualists who settled this great nation, our current generation seems to me to be not quite so durable. While my malpractice carrier would undoubtedly take umbrage with this radical course of treatment, I think it might be just the ticket in certain narrow circumstances.

How many folks do you know might benefit from a round or two of lion therapy? I’ve got my pad ready.

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