By Henry Ehrlich
I like to tell people “I’m not an allergist but I play one on the Internet.” Harold Ramis wasn’t an allergist either, but he played one in the movies.
In Asthma Allergies Children: a parent’s guide, we wrote:
“Most allergies aren’t life-threatening, although food and insect allergies and asthma can be. But they do take a toll on the quality of life— particularly heartbreaking in a child. How can a kid play ball when grass reduces him or her to sneezing, itching, and wheezing? Frequent absences from school can set the child back academically and socially. By portraying Helen Hunt’s son as a kid who was missing out on life, the Academy Award–winning movie As Good As It Gets gave a tremendous boost to the cause of publicizing the plight of childhood allergy sufferers. Because his mother had no health insurance, the poor boy was on a roller coaster of curtailed activity and emergency room visits. Sadly, this is all too common. It shouldn’t be that way.”
The central character, Melvin Udall, played by Jack Nicholson, pays for something most people have ever heard of—a house call by a physician, Dr. Bettes.
Dr. Bettes was played by Mr. Ramis, offering a program of proven treatments to keep the little boy’s asthma under control, free of charge. That’s no small consideration.
These were hardly cutting edge therapies Dr. Bettes was providing, but they likely would have cut this boy’s emergency room visits and sick days by about 75%. Yet, asthma still costs the American economy $60 billion in direct medical costs, lost days and work and school, and diminished futures for thousands of children. So let’s remember Dr. Bettes for espousing proven asthma therapy, and Harold Ramis as a writer, actor, and director for Animal House, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Analyze This.