Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Miracle of Modern Medicine

I've been thinking a lot the past couple days about the immense fortune I've had in living my life in the 20th and 21st centuries.  There are many things to be said about the comforts of modern life and the wondrous convenience of living with air conditioning, streaming movies, cellular telephones and electric toothbrushes.  But in spite of my sincere appreciation for bubble wrap and some what comical interest in writing an ode to heated car seats, the thing that deserves a blog post tribute all of it's own is nothing less than modern medicine.

It occurred to me when I was moping the other day about my placenta previa that conditions like this typically killed women in the past... Unable to identify the root of the problem without such technology as ultrasounds or to preform survivable surgical techniques to remove the baby, it's no wonder that the mortality rates of women in child birth were so high in pervious centuries.  I mean the modern technique for caesarean sections has only been preformed since 1881 and one historical account I read said that sixteen years prior to this standardization similar surgeries in the UK resulted in an 85% mortality rate... EIGHTY FIVE PERCENT!

Given that in the year 2000, the mortality rates in the United States for c-sections were 20 in 1,000,000 I can't believe the incredible stroke of luck I have to be in my particular predicament in the era that I am dealing with it.  Perhaps it goes a bit far to say that having placenta previa is a "stroke of luck," because let's face it any pregnancy complication is an unwelcome complication, but the reality check that in any other century (or might I many other countries) this would likely be the last five months of my life is quite the wake up call...  whoa.

Once I made the mental leap from placenta previa to smelling the roses it hit me that this isn't the first time that I've "cheated death" because of advances in modern medicine.  Like I said in my first post, when I was diagnosed with diabetes back in January 2011 the doctors were seriously concerned by my diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).  Not even identified as a sickness until 1886, DKA was considered universally fatal until the introduction of reliable insulin therapy in the 1920s.   It's my understanding that today the mortality rate caused by DKA is less than 1% when caught early enough and treated appropriately...  So when the doctors at Georgetown University Hospital said that I was a couple weeks away from multi-system organ failure and plausibly could have died if I hadn't been diagnosed with diabetes when I was, they truly weren't kidding... thank God for IV potassium and artificial insulin!

In my romanticized, literary perspective of the world (thank you Jane Austen), I've often been quite nostalgic about centuries past and the simplicity of life that people faced in the uncomplicated, proper societies of yore.  Longing for the world of pre-facebook and basic arithmetic, I've talked about this ideal picture in my head with HB regularly and he often laughs at my boiled down, Hollywoodized version of yester-year... okay fine, perhaps there were more disease epidemics, the "middle class" didn't really exist and literacy was a privilege of those who didn't have to work hard labor... I blame it on that game Oregon Trail, the sister that always got bitten by the snake recovered when I crossed the prairie...

But all jokes and day dreams aside, I've got to admit he has a point.  In light of the realization that my life would have ended at age 24 because of my diabetes or at age 26 because of child birth, I am extremely grateful for whatever grace of God that has me alive today rather than in the 19th century or earlier.

So here is to you, modern medicine! Thank you for extending my life expectancy and giving me the opportunity to work on my optimism.


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