Greek-American Stories: Modern Medical Miracles    

June 24, 2019
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

The history of medical care goes back thousands of years. In prehistoric times people in northern Europe depended on a witch doctor who prescribed assorted weeds, prayers, or the sacrificing animals. Slowly, some people saw that was all superstitious nonsense and waited until the Greeks came along. Then, thanks to one Hippocrates, things changed.

Scientific medicine was born. A good thing, too! The American health system is now a $3.6 trillion industry. There are 332 million Americans seeking medical care.

To point to how advanced the medical system has progressed since ancient times, let me tell you about my own experience. Many years ago, my daughter, Sophia, 10 years old at the time, was not feeling well. Getting ready to see the pediatric doctor, Kiria Fofo, a 4 foot, black clad, neighbor, came in to say “hello.” I explained where we were going and she took one look at Sophia and said, ‘matiasmeni’ (she has been evil eyed) and she begged me to let her do an ancient diagnosis. Not wanting to belittle her, I agreed – as long as she didn’t sacrifice an animal. She placed her hand on Sophia’s head as she looked up to the ceiling with ethereal reverence, muttering a few incoherent words, then, she nodded, seriously, and said, “it’s her throat.” I thanked her and left.

In the waiting room, where some of those 332 million Americans seeking health care were waiting to see various doctors, we sat and watched a TV on the wall showing patients with various ailments and how they all were benefitted by the modern medical miracles performed in that office, all now looking fit as athletes in comparison with those sitting in the waiting room with us. Finally, the receptionist pointed to us. She handed me sheets of papers to fill out, enough to begin a bio of my family history and, possibly a box office smash hit movie. I couldn’t recall what my grandfather died of. It was something in Greek. We went and sat in the reception room for what seemed hours. Within that hour, the crowd in the waiting room had thinned to about half. Finally, we were called into a cubicle where the stethoscope-adorned doctor looked at Sophia as if she was a prehistoric being. I waited for a comment – anything. Then, shaking his head, he solemnly said, ‘Hmmmm”. After looking down her throat, feeling her throat, probing her neck area and then, listening to her heart, he shook his head again in a way that brought on a little uneasiness. “We have to do a few tests,” he declared, sending her into various rooms where she was throat swabbed, ear examined, chest x-rayed and asked more questions than the detectives on the show, Crime Scenes. Then, we were asked to wait outside again. We waited! And, waited. The TV against the wall repeated the same film excepting that the athletes and leaping housewives appeared a little older.

The receptionist looked in on us to check that we hadn’t expired from malnutrition. Finally, we were called into his office, were seated, and we waited while he studied the results of those tests. Then, solemnly he said, “it’s her throat’. Kiria Fofo came to mind. He handed us a prescription for a gargle, some antibiotics and we went home – to eat.

I recalled the time I was at my primary care physician. I was told to eat more greens and cut out sugar and meat consumption. “But, doctor,” I told her, “I walk my feet off and I’m a vegetarian.” She looked at me and said, “Oh! Well, then, eat more greens.” One out of three wasn’t bad, I guess.  Modern medicine has come a long way: x-ray machines, MRIs, EKGs, ultrasound, robotic surgeries, blood work, stethoscopes, scalpels and telephone book sized listings of pills and tablets. I can admit that I’ve been eating more greens, especially spanakopita. But, things do happen, however, even when we’re doing what’s right: infections, colds, bruises, and, as in my case, depression caused by holding losing lottery tickets. But, there’s another way to deal with the maladies that beset us, unexpectedly. I suggest, if after doing all the above, you’re still not doing well, I suggest you see Kiria Fofo. I’ve got an appointment tomorrow.


Information we receive can be categorized into that which we already knew without being told, and that which we otherwise wouldn’t have known and now have to use our critical thinking skills to determine its accuracy.

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