Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An Old Wives Tail

One problem with "Old wives tales" is that every so often they are found to have scientific evidence of being true. We still find members of our society who cling to so many such tails long after they are debunked such as mustard plasters for pneumonia, all kinds of herbs that have believers promoting them without proof that they sound as if there must be evidence of their usefulness. The same is true of Astrology. In reading of days only slightly before my childhood one interesting expression used regularly in the medical profession in considering the outcome of certain diseases was, he or she had, "passed the crisis" and would therefore recover. Black magic?
A personal experience leads me to believe that the doctors of those days had knowledge with no scientific proof that they knew the patient would recover. So this blog is to throw some light on that subject. The light I have to throw comes from an incident of a disease three Beaglers had after spending vacation days in North Carolina with our Beagles at field trials. On returning to our homes a month later each of us was stricken with a serious set of symptoms. In retrospect the disease was infectious hepatitis, a virus disease with an incubation period of about 30 days. In my case I lost 25 pounds in 15 days according to our bathroom scale. During that time I could hold nothing down other than part of the water I sipped from time to time. At that time a Yale professor who was Chairman of the United Nations Comission on Jaundice was brought out to talk with me by my father who was concerned. By that time I had turned cannery yellow in skin and eye color. Dr. John Paul was the doctor's name. After discussing my problem Dr. Paul had two bits of advice for me. First was not to take vitamins. The second was to stay out of hospitals. Later he explained to my father that the survival rate of those who did not go to a hospital was much higher than those hospitalized with infectious hepatitis. About vitamins those who took vitamins had a considerably higher death rate than those who did not take vitamins during the disease. My personal doctor had advised vitamins but they were impossible to keep down, fortunately. It was almost 3 weeks without food that one day I tried a milkshake and that was the beginning of my recovery.
Years later, thinking about that situation I wondered if the lack of vitamins was part of the reason for my recovery. I thought, just suppose the virus of infectious hepatitis required say vitamin B1 for its nourishment. In weeks of starvation the virus without my B1 nourishment may have weakened it so that my immune system could overcome it. Before I get back to the old doctors with their,"the crisis is past" expression let me suggest an avenue of research that I wonder about. We have found that it takes special cultures to grow organisms in. Perhaps requirements in the cultures for some of those disease causing agents would be ones the inflicted animal, human or other, could survive without for longer than the "bug." In my case I wonder if I survived because I out lasted the vitamin requirements of the virus.
Back to my original reason for this blog. It may be incidental but it has been reported that any practicing human physician on entering a home with a patient with Typhoid fever could make the diagnosis without seeing the patient, the odor was so typical. The same may be said of a veterinarian entering an exam room with a female with a problem, pyometria, with a discharging uterine infection. With experience doctors would find a pattern of survival with a given problem that in a given number of days of life recovery would follow. So without scientific knowledge of why, doctors would have a basis for such a prediction. In my case in any hospital a patient who could not retain food or medication would be given the medicine or vitamins by injection. Hmmm. Incidentally my two other Beagling friends also came down with infectious hepatitis a month after our vacation and one did spend weeks in a hospital and both recovered. A Post Script. How often is it necessary to eat a given vitamin? Say B1. Is once a week sufficient? How about the other vitamins? How about protein? We have much research in need of being done.

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