Medicine Ranks Number 1

Bill Neinast

With one fifth of the century already in the history books, I was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.  My flip top cell phone finally gave up the ghost, and I had to settle for an iPhone as a replacement.

Now I am like every other American over six years of age who cannot be found without that little talking machine in easy reach.  Just like them, you will never find me out of bed without that little conversation disturber in hand.

Not long after putting the new phone in my pocket, I realized I was carrying the Encyclopedia Americana around with me.  Everyone with a so-called smart phone knows what I mean.

You can carry on a conversation with this contraption, and it knows more than you do.  For example, I asked Siri, my phone’s moniker, where the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is located.  She answered immediatly with, “The Temple of Artemis, also known as the Temple of Diana, is in Ephesus, Turkey.”

That would have taken at least ten minutes to find the information in one of the 25 volumes of the Encyclopedia Americana.

This revelation of such outstanding developments kicked off some thoughts about the changes in lifestyles that have occurred in my nine decades of life.  Things like air conditioning, TV, atomic power and destruction, rockets carrying humans to the moon and an orbiting space station, jet air travel, automobiles that lead you to your destination, frozen dinners and microwave cooking, telecommunication, and many, many more.

The most revolutionary changes or advancements, however, were in medical care.  In my early days, medical care consisted of the home medicine chest.   The standard found there was aspirin, castor oil, iodine, Vicks Vaporrub, and vaseline.  You went to the doctor, or had him come to the home when they still made house calls, for a broken bone or something more serious than a cough and cold.

Now look at me today.  I have two artificial knees,  only one kidney, no gall bladder, both carpal tunnels have been opened, my atrial fibrillation is controlled by an implanted Pace Maker, and the heart arteries called “the widow maker” have been bypassed. 

In addition, my hypertension has been kept under control with medicine since age 27.  Conversely, my mother died of uncontrollable hypertension related problems at age 52.

Today, some doctor’s visits have been replaced with technology.  Several years ago, I had to visit my cardiologist on a quarterly basis to have my Pace Maker checked.  Now I go to my bedroom chest of drawers and pick up a small device from its base.  A screen lights up on the base and an animation tells me to hold the monitor over my Pace Maker.  The animation then shows me the monitor is reading, that the reading has been transmitted, and to return the monitor to its base.

A week or so later, I will get an electronic notification from my cardiologist about the results and instructions on when to repeat the test.

Similarly, until recently, I had to go to the doctor’s office or a lab once a month to have blood drawn to check my coumadin level.  Coumadin or warfarin is a blood thinning or slicking medicine prescribed to lessen the risks of heart attacks. 

Today, I check my coumadin level at home every two weeks.  It takes a simple finger prick to put a drop of blood on a plastic disposable strip that  I insert into a small battery operated reader.  Within seconds, the coumadin level is displayed on the device’s screen and it is relayed to my cardiologist’s office.

So here’s the perspective.

Life today is much easier, simpler, and enjoyable than it was when I was brought into the world on the Eve of the Great Depression.  No invention or adaptation has contributed to that lifestyle more than the revolutions in medicine.

So give extra thanks the next time you need medical care or even take a dose of medicine. 



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