The village of Saligão had three medical doctors and one self-proclaimed homoeopathist. The three doctors were Dr. Vaglo who lived in Arrarim, Dr. Avelino who lived in Cottula, and Dr. Menino Machado who lived in Grand Morod.
Dr. Vaglo was a Hindu, and only made house calls… on foot. He wore a white suit, without a tie, and carried his stethoscope and other basic instruments in a leather bag.
Dr. Avelino practiced out of his spacious home in the ward of Cottula, and also made house calls… on a bicycle. He was more casual in his dress and wore a bush shirt.
Dr. Menino Machado lived in a beautiful mansion in the ward of Morod, and had a maternity ward and outpatients office in a little hospital he had built across from his home. He also made house calls…in a chauffeur-driven car. He was always dressed in a suit, replete with Jodhpur slacks and riding boots.
The villagers called on these doctors according to the severity of the ailment. Needless to say, Dr. Vaglo was the first choice in Arrarim. But if it was felt that the ailment would challenge his limited resources and perceived lack of expertise, the patient would be referred to Dr. Avelino. Only as a last resort would Dr. Menino Machado be called upon.
Whenever Dr. Menino would make a house call, the news would spread through the neighborhood pretty fast. It wouldn’t be long before the older folk would speculate on the severity of the illness and anticipate the worst. They’d then call for the parish priest to administer the last rites to the patient – a wise move that would at least ensure a smooth passage of the soul into heaven in the event of death.
Then there was the colorful Doctor Mario. He was a homoeopathist who had quite a sizeable following in the village. He wore a khaki shirt, khaki shorts, a wide-brimmed safari hat and khaki canvas shoes. He was short and lean, and had a distinct swagger in his walk.
Doctor Mario lived in the ward of Grand Morod, and made frequent visits to the natural spring in Salmona. Here he would bathe in the cool water before wandering through the forested hillside looking for specialty roots and herbs for his secret medicines.
Doctor Mario doffed his hat at everyone he met, and most villagers would respond with a polite greeting followed by a respectful “dotor,” although they often snickered behind his back. No one ignored him although they knew that he was a quack. One of his medicines was a piece of a root that he claimed would provide immunity against small pox.
One year I had received my small pox vaccination, but my grandmother bought the root from Doctor Mario anyway and had it attached to the scapula that hung from my neck. It was like a little bit of extra insurance.
All the medical doctors wrote out prescriptions that had to be formulated by the ‘compounder’ at the pharmacy in Cotula. The compounder would pour the ‘mixture’ in a rectangular bottle, and mark the doses by first cutting out a strip of paper, about 1/2 inch wide, of a length equal to the height of the ‘mixture’ in the bottle. He would then fold the paper down to the number of doses prescribed, cut notches in the sides, unfold the strip and paste it to the side of the bottle. The notches enabled the patient to measure out the correct dose.
Doctor Mario, on the other hand, was not qualified to write out prescriptions. He’d just measure out a length of root from his cloth pouch and cut notches to prescribe the dosage.
The medical doctors in the village were reputable, unlike Doctor Mario who, we knew all along, had us conned. Nevertheless, something prompts me to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, as a former ‘patient’ of his, I am alive to tell the tale more than fifty years later.