On Monday January 9th I went to the emergency room because I discovered an abscess on my leg. I was admitted immediately because my heart rate was high and they were afraid I might be septic, I was mostly having a panic attack, but my heart rate took a week to get to normal levels. I spent that week at St. David’s. I was never in any serious danger of taking a negative turn (read: dying), but for my mother and father I imagine being 300 miles from your first born as they lay in a hospital bed fills them with dread. They don’t know that I’m fine and just need the antibiotics to kill an infection (I wasn’t septic, but the infection had shown up in my blood). When I left they still worried.
At times like this people thank their creator, but I’d like to thank all the scientists who made my recovery possible. In the 1800s if I’d had this same problem there is a chance I’d lose a leg at best, at worst, I’d of died of sepsis. The reason that didn’t happen is because of the history of scientists and doctors saying to nature, “No, not on my watch”.
I was given a blood test that helped determine that, yes, I did have a slight infection. Testing blood in general has only been around for a little over a hundred years, and the ability to find infection…less than that. So thank you to those scientists who worked to perfect, and are still working to make more perfect, that process.
To give the surgeon an idea of what they were going to have to drain from me, I was given a CT scan. The first was invented in 1967 (according to Wikipedia) and first put into use in 1971. Thank you Dr. Godfrey Hounsfield and Dr. Allan Cormack who shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for this.
After this I was taken up to my hospital room. I was put on IV Vancomycin (thank you Edmund Kornfeld) and Zosyn.
I stayed there for two nights and had surgery on Wednesday. Now I’d like to thank everyone who worked hard and studied to become my doctor, surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurse, tech, social worker, and case worker. I don’t know all their names, but every single person at St. David’s was amazing and so supportive. My surgeon was an excited young woman and you could tell the joy she derived from doing her job. It was a little weird to have someone so excited to cut into you, but she did an amazing job and I regret that I wasn’t able to thank her afterwards. I’d like to thank my wound care people who are ensuring that I am healed in weeks as opposed to months. I’d like to thank the inventor of the wound vac (first put into use in 1995) which is why I’ll heal in weeks not months. I’d also like to single out two people who made my stay amazing: my nurse Alex who made the first few days enjoyable (everyone I met there knew and liked him and was sad he left) and Megan who took my vitals and made the last days fun. She had a great sense of humor and a great recommendation for feminist sci-fi authors. I always love a person who can recommend a book.
I write this because there is a strong current of anti-intellectualism running through our country. We live in a world where people deny evolution and climate change. We don’t trust people who have spent their lives studying the things they are talking about. If you’re one of those people, don’t go to the doctor or the hospital next time you’re sick. If you don’t trust a climate scientist or a biologist why would you trust a doctor or surgeon? Science is science. Biologist, Chemist, and Physicist all use the same scientific method. While medical studies are subject to more variation due to small sample sizes (and the lack of a control group because you can’t intentionally infect people with diseases), they still use the same scientific method.
I will be fully healed by the end of February if not sooner thanks to the work of scientists of the past and the doctors and nurses of the present who took care of me and made use of the wonderful technological and chemical advances we as intelligent, curious humans created. When you besmirch or insult scientists you are teaching your children that intelligence is not valued. That science is unimportant and has no impact on our lives. But science is not just ensuring that people live longer, it is creating those phones and games that you enjoy. Science brought you that giant flat screen television at a relatively inexpensive price because intelligent people figured out how to make things better than they used to be. They used science.
This anti-intellectualism is what is going to cost America its place as a world leader. If we raise children to not trust science or, worse, that science is a lie, we halt progress. We ensure that those children will not create the next great medical device or come up with the cure for some disease. If we teach that evolution is not true, we ensure that no child is going to discover a great anti-viral because viruses don’t care that you don’t believe in evolution they continue to evolve regardless.
Curiosity, experimentation, questioning the status quo, that is what we should be encouraging our children to do. A little over a hundred years ago I would have died from my infection, in 2017 I was only mildly inconvenienced. That is thanks to many people who decided to not let “nature take its course” over the intervening 100 years. Thank you to all those men and women, and to all the men and women who still work towards that cause.
You may put your faith in whatever you like, I’ll put my trust in science.