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Palabras Pintorescas - I wonder what Doc would be thinking now

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By Editha Bartley

Schools are in full operation. Flu shots are now available. The itchy eyes and runny nose syndrome known as allergies is still prevalent. And, curses of curses upon us. The kids come home with the cold bug. Fortunately, I rarely get a cold. That is because I think I have met every cold virus there is so now may have somewhat of an immunity. Is this a possible plus for old age?

I can hear my doctor father repeating his annual remarks about the health of us and our nation. He was always pleasantly surprised at how much we have improved our health, how much longer we have extended our lifetime in just his generation.

His area of expertise was tuberculosis, mainly because he was a survivor of that dreaded killer disease, way back in the late 1920s, before the development of the miracle drugs of the 1940s and ‘50s.

He would be quick to point out that colds, allergies and then the flu are common when school starts. Germs and viruses spread very quickly when humans (or animals) are confined in close quarters.

Doc hoped tuberculosis would be nonexistent by the turn of this new century. He would be disappointed in the recent news story in the Albuquerque Journal titled “The TB Challenge ... Tuberculosis widespread in poorer countries, still surfaces in United States.”

It seems there are both positive and negative crosscurrents in the treatment of TB. Although treatments are down dramatically, they are becoming more complicated. Doc would be quick to point out that most current medical students have never seen an active case of TB and diagnosis of this killer of long ago is not easy, simply because it is so uncommon. And TB is not just a disease of the chest.

One can suffer with TB in almost any organ in the body, even the nervous system, the bowel and so much more.

I have no idea how many x-rays Doc took at our Valmora Sanatorium Hospital, founded for the treatment of TB in 1904, no less, but they were in the thousands, for sure. He could spot a TB lesion in the lung x-ray of a patient instantly. Practice makes perfect, he’d say, because there was so much TB in this country long ago.

I know Doc would be pleased with our development and almost rampant use of hand sanitizers. He was an advocate of aseptic technique, almost to a point of being obsessive. Sweet brother Bill hated his constant questioning of when Bill last washed his hands, I might add. That was because Bill hated soap and water almost until he became a teenager. And because Bill and I had to have at least one chest x-ray every year until we went off to college, Doc was happy to point out to us that we had some immunity to TB because both of us had scars, healed TB lesions in our lungs. Yes, most of us do have hidden immunities that build up in our otherwise healthy systems, fortunately.

I also remember Doc’s comments about the state of the world.

Someone would question him about why there was so much cancer, heart disease, asthma, or whatever the disease of the day was and he’d always remind his listener that “We all have to die of something.” I wonder ... Did he really think TB would still be on that fatal list? I doubt it.

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.