THE HEALING POWERS OF YOUR POSITIVE ATTITUDE

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

From “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

My brother recently sent me a video  featuring a confident man with a famous last name and a winning message: You beat Covid by fighting it. I would like to comment on several recommendations in his inspiring speech.

It is usually best to approach a problem with a POSITIVE ATTITUDE and a PLAN (1). This is particularly true with the ravages of old age (my area of expertise). Memory loss? Try to memorize poems. Balance loss? Practice standing on one leg. However………….

One person’s good experience is not a medical study. Medicine calls it a testimonial. This applies to my individual experiences as well. Going forward, I will be recounting many personal experiences with common diseases and conditions. Be careful about applying my solutions to your condition.. EXERCISE CRITICAL THINKING.

Be especially careful not to equate fame with medical expertise.

Mr. Cuomo’s result, if indeed the outcome was changed by his efforts, was most likely influenced by a powerful PLACEBO effect (2) which can be associated with striking outcomes, as we know from countless inspiring testimonials  of “hopeless” cancer and other terminal conditions.

Even if we KNOW a treatment is likely due to the placebo effect, it remains effective. I don’t believe I’m doing harm with my speculations.

A couple of generations ago, confidence in doctors was much greater than it is now. We had fewer effective treatments, but surprisingly good results. As medical information of various quality proliferates and medicine loses prestige, it it is losing a valuable tool. Still, we have the placebo effect.

Mr. Cuomo was fortunate to have a good, positive doctor, and to believe in him. Positive affect is powerful.

FEVER is not the virus incarnate, but the bodies RESPONSE to the virus. Fever survived the culling of evolution because it confers a survival advantage, and is helpful.(3) Viruses replicate less rapidly at higher body temperatures.

I always told my patients: “ if you are stuck with the infection, enjoy the fever”. Of course high fevers, above 104 degrees F should be reduced.

I’m not sure that Covid patients should hold their breaths to “fight the virus”, although the length of time you can hold your breath is a good measure of breathing difficulty.  Blood CO2, the main driver of dyspnea (shortness of breath), must not be allowed to accumulate. The accompanying hypoxemia (low blood oxygen ) is not desirable either.

I agree with most of the advice quoted by Mr. Cuomo. Lying on the back has proven dangerous in severe Covid. Taking deep breaths (even if painful) will help keep the alveoli (air sacs) expanded. Change of position is important for the same reason,  and adequate fluids, including water, is always beneficial.

So educate yourself as much as you can about your condition. Pick out the best doctor you can find (the subject of a future opinion piece) and place yourself in her care. Enjoy a sense of relief and confidence. Even physicians need the objectivity and support of their own doctor.

Finally, armed with a positive attitude, make the most of whatever placebo effect you are accorded.

—Dr. C.

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