Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Taming Fire

A fictional tale by Mickey Cheatham

“Send in Mr. Johnson, please nurse.” As my next patient entered the room, I reviewed his chart. It was just an annual visit, and I read his file as he entered the room. Age: 142 — middle aged. Health: pretty typical. Last Injection was four years ago. He shouldn’t need one for another six years, but the scientist in my knew that these were just averages and every individual responded differently to the medical discovery that had yielded not only the extended life we all now enjoyed, but literally healed medical problems that no one could even treat back in the twentieth century.

“Please take a seat, Mr. Johnson. How are you feeling?”

“Very good doctor. My third set of teeth have fully grown in.”

I quickly checked his chart and saw the last set of teeth had been removed six months ago. The new tooth growth was right on the expected time-line. “Very good. Anything else.”

“Yes, I lost the end of my thumb a few months ago in an accident at the plant. It has grown back quite nicely, but it took a little longer than the plant doctor expected. Do you think I need another Injection?”

“Well,” I responded, “it is possible. But we’ll have to do some tests. You have to be very careful with something as powerful as the Injection.”

“There’s not any danger is there doc?”

I had always told my patients the truth. Many thought the power of the Injection was like magic, as it certainly appeared to be. All the human suffering it has relieved, not to mention the lengthening of lifetimes made it seem a little like magic, and most patients viewed me as some kind of witch doctor for administering the Injections. So I like to be very straight forward with my patients and explain the risks as well as the benefit.

“Well, it is a powerful treatment,” I responded. “I like to compare it to fire. For thousands of years man struggled to conquer fire and make it his servant. Even today, when we routinely use fire to keep our homes warm, cook our meals, to manufacture our metals, and even for such everyday tasks as lighting a cigarette are now things that we don’t even think about. But still, today, even with all our scientific advances, fire can get away from our control and cause damage.”

“We’ve have many tools to protect us from fire such as smoke detectors in our homes and city fire departments ready to save our homes in case the fire does escape.”

“But if you think back to ancient times, men were very intimidated by fire. It was a great danger that could destroy a home and even a large city if it got out of control. It was a very dangerous thing and it is only in the last few hundred years that we’ve really conquered fire through the use of fire-proof materials, built-in sprinkler systems, and sensitive instruments to keep the fire under control.”

“We accomplished turning fire from a dangerous enemy to a tool that we use everyday without any concern about its danger.”

“The Injections are no different. They have brought us great good, but they can be dangerous. Before we learned how to master this powerful tool, it was actually greatly feared by mankind. Just like a runaway forest fire, the power of the Injection could destroy lives and even the mention of its name would bring fear to doctors and patients alike.”

“No, it is still powerful and can cause great damage if it gets out of control. But man has learned to control the powerful, one-time enemy, and now uses it for good. Why most people today don’t even remember its name. It is now just called the 'Injection.'”

My patient seemed relieved after my explanation. I think it is always best to explain the wonders of modern science to the patient, rather than let them have irrational fears. We arranged for the battery of tests that would be performed as an out-patient in preparation to giving Mr. Johnson a booster shot of the injection. It is a powerful tool, but it can still get out of control if we are not very careful.

I sent him out of the room to meet with my nurse and schedule the tests.

Glancing at my watch, I realized I had a little while before my next patient was due, and I had time to review two current cases. One was a soldier injured by a land mine. He had lost both of his legs above the knees when he was clearing a field of unexploded mines.

Even in a time of peace, the job of a soldier can be very dangerous. He was clearing up an old mine field left over from one of those civil wars that can still break out in poorer countries. The war had been over for more than a year, but the dangerous mines were still there, and our government was assisting with the mine removal when the soldier stepped on the explosive losing both legs.

However, the prognosis was quite good. In cases like major limb loss, a booster shot of the Injection is usually used to speed up the regrowth of the new limbs. Of course, such a powerful treatment required careful monitoring to make sure the Injection doesn’t get out of control. The Injection can cure severe injury to bone and nerve, and eliminated all of the paralysis cases caused by neck and spine injury. Just the fact that the Injection could restore feeling and movement to formerly paralyzed people would be miracle enough without the life extending benefits to heart and mind.

Later this afternoon I would be supervising administration of the Injection to a six week-old child. This baby was born with a birth defect that left a hole between two chambers of her heart. Careful use of the Injection would allow this defect to grow closed naturally in just a few short days.

Normally the first Injection is only given to children around their eighteenth year, after their primary growth is over, but, under careful control and doctor monitoring, it can be given earlier to cure difficult medical problems and assist with healing.

Imagine, broken arms and legs used to take six months or longer to heal and the patient wore a cast during that time. Now we can grow the bone back together in a short hospital visit of less than a week.

We continue to learn more about the Injection, and how to keep it under control and only working for good. Funny when you think about it, how — at one time — it was one of the most feared diagnosis that a patient could get. Doctors actually took classes in medical school to learn how to break the news to their patients that they had the dreaded disease.

And now that killer has been turned into a servant of mankind. Just like the story I told Mr. Johnson. It is like the tale of fire. Once a scourge, now it serves mankind.

I don’t think anyone back in the twentieth century, with its focus on prescriptions and surgery, had any idea that that terrible disease would some day serve man. We have it under control now, although we still have to be very careful in its use.

Yes, it is very odd how quickly the transformation of society has occurred. A life span of over two hundred years is now easily accepted as we work to extend health even longer. So far the Injection has been able to treat and cure nearly every other disease that has inflicted mankind and does a wonderful job treating injuries that once led to paralysis and loss of limbs. The Injection has lengthened life, cured disease, and is used to treat terrible injuries and burns that were impossible to do before. Even poisons and radiation exposure is now cured. The blind can see again, and the lame can walk. We have truly tamed the fire.

Yes, the Injection has become the modern wonder treatment. These days hardly anyone except a historian even remembers the terrible name it was once know by — Cancer.

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