Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sour sop for insomnia


I bumped into Christine Rolle the other day. I met Christine when I first came to the island more than twenty years ago. The island has changed a lot since then. Christine looks pretty much the same.

She was one of the two bush doctors on the island, back in the days when bush medicine still had some popularity. The other was my neighbor Joe Romer, now departed from this world. Joe used to brew up a concoction I called Kickapoo Joy Juice that he swore cured anything from toothache to erectile dysfunction. I tried a few sips to please Joe, but could never bring myself to quaff the generous slugs he offered.

Christine's remedies were more specifically targeted. Deal tea for constipation. Cough vine for cough. Fever bush for fever. Gale of mint for stomach ache. And so on. She drove taxi/bus 25 in those days, giving tours of the island and lessons in bush medicine. The island had only a couple of tiny government clinics, and the hospitals of Nassau were a long way off. If you had a pain in the back, horse bush was the remedy.

And now, just in time for my physical decline, the government is building what looks to be an impressive "mini-hospital." Looks more like a real hospital to me, certainly a massive improvement on the tiny crowded clinic. It remains to be seen what the staffing will be -– if it's ever finished -– but it promises to be open 24-7 and stocked with modern drugs and diagnostic tools. Bush medicine will die with Christine.

Christine's mother had twenty or more children, which was not unusual in those days. Only five survived childhood, which was also not unusual. If the idea of bush medicine sounds romantic, keep in mind that life without scientific medicine was no bed of roses. One hears a lot of talk here from the old people about "the good ole days," but nobody wants to go back.