The Art of Darkness

Pulling the Cart or On the Cart?

November 7th, 2013 by Cobwebs

Bring Out Your Dead

Slate Magazine is doing a series of articles on life expectancy in the U.S., and their kickoff piece was an overview of the medical and public health advances that have contributed to the increased longevity of humans in the developed world.

It’s a fun conversation starter: Why are you not dead yet? It turns out almost everybody has a story, but we rarely hear them; life-saving treatments have become routine.

Or, as the article puts it with a riff on The Gashleycrumb Tinies:

M is for Maud who was swept out to sea…then brought back to shore by a lifeguard and resuscitated by emergency medical technicians.

O is for Olive run through with an awl…but saved during a four-hour emergency surgery to repair her collapsed lung.

S is for Susan, who perished of fits…or who would have, anyway, if her epilepsy hadn’t been diagnosed promptly and treated with powerful anticonvulsant drugs.

So I’ll pose the same question to you: Would you have survived the Middle Ages (or, possibly worse from a medical standpoint, the Victorian period)? Myself, I would have likely made it to adulthood (assuming my father hadn’t died of that burst appendix when he was six). I would probably have survived the teratoma* I developed in my late 20s, providing it didn’t strangle anything important. So far my closest brush with death has been childbirth, when my son would likely have died (the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck), and I may or may not have followed. So, provisionally, my status is, “I’m not dead yet.”

How about you? (Bring out your dead!)


*A teratoma is a usually-benign-but-really-freaky tumor which frequently contains tissue that resembles human body parts: Most often teeth and hair, but occasionally even stuff like eyeballs. They can cause problems when they grow big enough to interfere with your innards. (The strangest look I have ever received from anybody came from my surgeon, when she explained the removal procedure and asked me if I had any questions. I said, “If this thing has teeth, can I have them?” Her reaction indicated that she had never been asked that question before, ever. I was serious, though. Wouldn’t that be a great icebreaker at parties? “Hi, nice to meet you. You’ll never believe what these earrings are made from.” But I digress.)

Posted in Whatever | 13 Comments »

13 Responses

  1. Pixel Pixie Says:

    I think I would have ended up burnt at the stake for heresy.

  2. Mim Says:

    I wouldn’t have been here – my mum had to take fertility drugs to have me.

  3. KJ Says:

    I wouldn’t have made it out of childhood. Severely allergic to peanuts. Antihistamines have saved my life a few times. Same with epinephrine.

    So, another question – with all these life saving goodies, are we creating a species where it is no longer survival of the fittest? And is this necessarily a good thing? Two questions to bring party conversation to a stop and/or start a fight. :)

  4. Burning Prairie Says:

    All things that could’ve killed me-burst appendix at age 10, a severe case of strep throat that was slowly closing my throat at age 17, blocked bile duct at age 27, complications from childbirth at age 34. And that’s just the stuff not covered by vaccinations!

  5. jeanne e. Says:

    i think i would have made it, unless i ran into something i got vaccinated for. :)

    but i also feel modern medicine is a double edged sword…giving life to those who would have died, but weakening the gene pool in the process by allowing things to be passed on from generation to generation.

    will be interesting to see what happens in the next 25 years.

  6. cookie Says:

    I kinda get the feeling that my mother would have “lost” me out in the woods otherwise I’ve been pretty lucky healthwise.
    @KJ and Jeanne; the both of you are on the same wavelength. Peanut allergies were unheard of when I was a kid, it wasn’t until Big Pharma started using peanut oil as an adjutant in their vaccines that peanut allergies became almost the norm. :=X so much for modern medicine.

  7. cookie Says:

    Forgot to add my favorite government statistic. Heart disease and cancer are the second and third leading causes of death in the United States, what is Number One?….drumroll please….. medical misadventure. That’s right. Over 50,000 of your fellow citizens die every year from misdiagnosis, wrong treatment, misprescribed drugs, infections picked up in hospitals, etc. etc.. Things haven’t changed all that much except that now stuff “Beeps” and it’s shiney.

  8. WitchArachne Says:

    Well I couldn’t think of anything i would have died from apart from possibly the time I was caught in a rip and the lifeguard sort of saved me by coming and swimming alongside me.
    But Jeanne makes a good point. I’m fully vaccinated, so there’s probably a good chance I would have come across measles or smallpox or something.
    My Dad would possibly have died from his asthma before he had me, but that could be environmental, so we’ll assume he’d be here long enough to have me.
    My brother would be dead from pyloric stenosis within days of being born.
    My fiance would have died at 10 from a burst appendix.
    And I guess by 27 I probably would have had a few kids by now, increasing the likelihood of death-in-childbirth.
    It’s an interesting topic, and I’m gunna bring it up at the next party :D

  9. Cobwebs Says:

    Peanut allergies were unheard of when I was a kid, it wasn’t until Big Pharma started using peanut oil as an adjutant in their vaccines that peanut allergies became almost the norm. :=X so much for modern medicine.

    Nah; it may be more often diagnosed these days, but the allergy isn’t particularly new. :)

    I can’t seem to find anything about peanut oil in vaccination suspensions except on a few websites which clearly have an agenda; do you have a citation from PubMed or a similar source? Sounds interesting.

  10. xJane Says:

    Yeah, I’m with Pixel Pixie. I’d’ve had the fight beaten out of me or I’d just’ve been killed for disobedience—to my father, my better, or my husband. I haven’t had many brushes with death—a few health “issues” that are unlikely to’ve killed me. I’d have bad teeth and poor eyesight, but that’s about it.

  11. xJane Says:

    I’m lying! I probably wouldn’t’ve made it out—I was born by c-section. That makes me feel better about my problem with authority.

  12. Frances Says:

    Epileptic here, so would have been dead before teenagedom . . . not that I’d have been born anyway since mom would have died from having her femur puncture her organs due to not having a hip socket.

  13. Sisifo Says:

    I’m accident prone, and despite having staples in my head and a heart condition, I’m pretty sure my appendix would have killed me after baby #2. Rotten. This is awesome though. Can’t wait for Thanksgiving dinner. [:

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