If you have a cold, drink hot water with honey and lemon. If you have a stomachache, mix a drink with peppermint. If you have tonsillitis, gargle with sea salt. If you have a fever, bathe in cold water. If you have a bruise, apply potato skins. If the condition is any more serious, you may need a shaman or a prayer.
In many parts of the world, health care systems are broken, hard to access, or simply unaffordable for most. Although countries like Cuba, Denmark, Russia and Germany provide doctors for all to diagnose illness, give treatments in hospitals and prescribe medication, the sick and injured of other latitudes must heal themselves with traditional wisdom, religion, magic and common sense.
The news is flooded with stories of young Americans who ask for their friends’ leftover prescription drugs, who heal their broken bones at home, and who skip their asthma and diabetes medications to make the drugs last longer. Then there is the story of the Chinese family forced to design an oxygen ventilator with water hoses and a bicycle just to keep their daughter alive, and of the desperate biologists and chemists who create their own home laboratories to "hack" expensive medication.
These are the B-side responses that people around the world have developed in order to cope with diseases or health conditions that cannot be served by their increasingly impoverished, careless and costly health care systems.
In 2004, Ivo Cardile was born in Argentina with severe cerebral complications. After several days in a coma, Ivo was diagnosed with quadriparesis, a condition of increasing, inevitable muscular weakness. Doctors decreed that the child would live the rest of his life in a wheelchair, unable to walk.
But Ivo’s father, Jorge, is a mechanic who runs his own auto repair shop in Buenos Aires. Instead of resigning himself to the idea that biology is destiny, Jorge used his expertise as a car mechanic to design and build a machine that would restore his son’s legs and arms.
Jorge Cardile never attended medical school, and his homemade rehabilitation machine was not built according to sophisticated blueprints from a research laboratory. But Jorge has intuition, a craftsman’s technical knowledge, and an ambitious imagination driven by love.
He built his first prototype in one month, from a bicycle and a pair of wooden planks. Then, the Argentinian father developed a hybrid walking machine, made from pieces of metal and a child-sized harness.
Jorge’s Walking Stimulator, or Voelio, is claimed to be appropriate for all physical or mental conditions. It is made of several harnesses attached to a metal structure that suspends Ivo’s bodyweight and maintains a straight spine and corrective posture. Then, a sort of mash-up between a treadmill and an elliptical trainer helps Ivo to practice walking: lifting the feet, bending the knees and strengthening the muscles from the heels, passing through the ankles, up to the calves and thighs. Thanks to the exercises, today, the 8-year Ivo can walk hand-in-hand with his father, one step at a time.
According to Jorge, the Voelio can be adjusted for by use by persons of different ages and with various motor problems or diseases, such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's. So the Voelio has become hope in the guise of a therapeutic instrument, and the home of Ivo and Jorge has been transformed into a makeshift clinic where people from Argentina, Latin America and even Spain bring their children and other family members that have been abandoned by national healthcare.
The wider medical establishment has not yet accepted Jorge’s Voelio, but the contraption seems to have had a great effect on its users, to whom this machine, built with a father’s ingenuity, has returned the ability to walk.