Despite living in our bodies every day, when abnormal pain or illness strikes, it can be confusing. Does abdominal pain warrant a trip to the emergency room? What about early contractions while pregnant? And how can one begin to treat cancer?
A trip to the emergency room can be costly, so an emergency medical practitioner of 20 years wrote a book to help anyone become wise about medicine.
Dr. Mark Borden decided to write “Medical Wisdom” 10 years ago and has been working on it for the past six years.
Borden tended to more than 4,000 people in the emergency room last year.
“I realized a lot of people who come in to the ER don’t really need to,” Borden said. So, for the past 10 years, he recorded what people should know in order to make an informed choice about whether or not to go to the emergency room.
“What they need is what grandma knew 200 years ago,” Borden said. That doesn’t mean he prescribes folk treatments; Borden practices modern medicine. What his book teaches is knowledge. Knowledge of what medical terms mean, what diseases or infection do to a body and whether what’s happening to the body is abnormal or not.
“Medical Wisdom” explores a number of topics from abdominal pain through X-rays. It’s meant to be read from start to finish in order to give the reader a good background in medicine and related terms, and to help people know the difference between real medicine and misinformation.
As an example, Borden said that his chapter on cancer will help a person whose family member found out they have the disease.
“I would say 60 percent of people with cancer do much more poorly because they don’t know what cancer is,” Borden said, adding that this leads people to fall for strange “cures” on TV that can hurt more than help.
While a person may not be sick now, “everyone needs the book. They’re going to be sick someday,” Borden said, adding that his book also covers accidents like cuts on the hand, car accidents or seeing someone collapse.
Borden wrote the book so that the information will be valid now and in the future. While the tools of the trade may change, medical wisdom won’t.
“The book will be just as good 20 years from now as today,” Borden said, adding that he believes the body is resilient and does well without help most of the time. His book will teach people when it is the time to go to the hospital.
An example of when the book helped Borden’s family was when his son dislocated his big toe. He saved about $3,000 by relocating it at home instead of paying for expensive tests at the hospital, Borden said.
These kinds of bills can be very stressful on people, especially young people, Borden said. While insurance will cover many of the costs, Borden said it’s still important for the patient to care about what’s happening to their bodies, and “Medical Wisdom” can help with that.
“Medical Wisdom” also helps patients have more meaningful conversations with their doctors. For example, Borden said the book will teach the difference between a fractured and a broken bone -- there is no difference. “Medical Wisdom” continues by teaching the different types of fractures and whether they will require surgery or cause pain later in life.
“A patient with medical wisdom will know which questions to ask,” Borden said. “It totally changes the way a doctor will talk to a patient.” The book will help patients judge the quality of the care they are receiving.
“I think people don’t always know what great medical care is … It (“Medical Wisdom”) just empowers you,” said Erin Borden, Mark Borden’s wife. “Knowledge is power.”
Life on the farm
Despite devoting his life to medicine for the past 20 years, Borden finds time to continue his lifelong passions as a falconer and a fisher. He practices medicine at Swedish Medical Center and lives on a farm in Coupeville with his family, which includes hawks and two owls, Solomon and Athena. He does rehabilitation work with birds of prey.
“And that’s rewarding, getting to release beautiful birds of prey back into the wild,” Borden said.
Solomon and Athena are Borden’s first great horned owls. They will help hunt rabbits that threaten the pesticide- and herbicide-free wheat, barley and horse hay the Bordens raise.
Owls also take the stage in his book. Local artist Mary Ellen O’Connor did owl sketches for each chapter as a symbol of wisdom. However, Borden said he worries Solomon isn’t as wise as he’s assumed to be.
“Solomon in all his wisdom would get through that glass (window) if he tried hard enough … Maybe he’s not as wise as we think,” Borden laughed.
While many medical tomes are expensive, Borden is selling “Medical Wisdom” on Amazon for $20 even though Amazon recommended that he sell it for $80.
“I don’t want it to be one of those rare and eclectic texts no one can afford to buy,” Borden said.