As mentioned in my last post, if there were such a thing as a quack magnet, my parents fit the bill—or paid the bill (however you want to look at it).  My personal experience with their choice of medical personnel proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that if one incompetent, unqualified charlatan lurked in the city, they would find him.

For those not familiar with the colloquialisms of the USA, a “Quack” is a doctor who is incompetent because, like any good cult leader, he thinks the great medicine man in the sky is guiding him.  Or he is more interested in making money than curing people.  If one of these comes near you, duck! 

Yes, I know—the subtleties between a Quack and a real doctor are so slight it would be hard for anyone to reasonably discern the difference, but I’ll try my best to pass along my expertise regarding how to spot them.  To make a short blog out of a childhood full of experience, I’ll use 2 examples:


(I’m giving you the web page describing it so you know I’m not just making this up).


I’ll spare you the boring medi-speak and give you the executive nutshell:  It’s a neurological disorder that doesn’t show up in an MRI (even if there had been MRI’s when I was a child).  I was showing symptoms at 4 years old.  I had brief, repetitive tics like eye blinking/movements, grunting, facial grimacing, and shoulder shrugging.  And yes, it drove my parents bonkers.

WHAT A QUACK TOLD MY PARENTS:    (medieval…uh, mid 20th century South Florida)

  1. She just wants attention.  Every time she does this, slap her.  (stress makes it worse)
  2. Give her this clear, peppermint flavored nerve medicine.  (It did nothing for the tics, but provided a world of relief for my sister’s menstrual cramps).
  3. Force her to look in the mirror and make her watch what she looks like when she does it.  (Did I mention that stress makes it worse?)

WHAT A REAL DOCTOR TOLD ME:   (1982, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

  1. Both you and your 6 year old son have Tourette Syndrome.
  2. You can take medicine, but since it’s a mild case the cure will be worse than the problem.
  3. Any competent doctor has known about Tourette’s since the 19th century (it was discovered in 1885).



A fancy way to say, “Honey, you’re nearsighted.”  

How to escape the torture outlined below?  OFLC3.   What, you might ask, is OFLC3?  It used to be the 20/20 line on the eye chart.  Back then, general directions for hiding the truth about your eye condition included the following:

—Stand in back of the victims waiting in line for their turn.

—Face the general direction of those who read the chart.

—Listen to make sure the line you have to read hasn’t changed since last year. 

—Then, just say the magic letters to the school nurse to escape the pain.

That works until you’re 10 and some smart-ass nurse says, “Get over here, you’re going to go first this year.  Read the 20/30 line.”

3 SEPARATE QUACKS(Again—mid 20th century South Florida)

  1. Ignoring the obvious.  She says she feels better wearing sunglasses?  She says she sees the letters better with the sunglasses on?  She’s in elementary school?  She just wants attention.  Make her stand against the wall and put her nose on this outrageously expensive target.  Force her to look up/down and then side to side (Tourette’s be damned!).  If she says it hurts, spank her. (Why bother to see if I’m light sensitive when he can make so much more by torturing me?)
  1. Light torture #1.  She has dry eyes, that’s all.  Of course we can cure her.  Here’s an outrageously expensive book from 1925 that has all the answers!  She needs to sit at the window and stare at the sun for 5 minutes.  (Perhaps I should stare at a solar eclipse, too?)
  2. Light torture #2. Pay me $5 a visit to put her in front of these blinking lights each week and make her follow them back and forth.  How old did you say she was?  10?  She’s going to need these specific eye exercises for the next 8 years.  (Until the year I leave home?  How convenient.) 

REAL DOCTOR   (University of California-Berkeley low vision clinic 1990 – 2013.  It may be across the country, but it’s the ONLY place I’ve EVER experienced an amazingly thorough eye exam given by a team of competent, caring doctors.)

The initial eye exam to determine if there was a problem consisted of 2 sentences:

       Doctor:   “Read the chart.”   

       Me:         “What chart?”


  1. You are light sensitive.   After 2 days of tests, we’ve determined the problem originates from the red end of the light spectrum.  Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not real.  You need a special tint on your glasses.  (It cut the migraines down to a fraction!!!)
  2. You are nearsighted, one eye is slightly higher, the other eye slightly out.  You have an astigmatism rivaling a funhouse mirror, and you have dry eyes.  No, your problem  can’t be cured with eye exercise.  Who told you that?
  3. You need the light off in back of the letters to see the chart?  No problem!  You need to walk around outside a couple of hours with 5 pounds of lenses to see if the new Rx is going to work?  No problem!  It looks like it’s the optimal fit but it’s giving you headaches?  No problem!  There’s a window of acceptable refractions and you are exceedingly sensitive to it.  Let us know what works for you. 

Yes, I know.   It is so hard to tell the difference between a quack and a real doctor.  But I hope that this short, humble blog is able to guide you through a few of the subtleties between the two.