Movie Review

“Rocketman”

If you are an Elton John fan, and I am, you have to like this movie. How much fans like it may vary. It had plenty of John’s music and more than enough of his outrageous costumes, however, I left the two-hour movie feeling a bit unfulfilled.

Part of my disappointment was in the way the music was presented in excerpts rather than full songs. Perhaps I should confess here that I don’t care for musicals and this was a musical. To me, it is just unnatural for people to break out in song while doing the most mundane of activities. OK! I know it was about music, but still.

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There was a clear depiction of his early life with a mother and father who either knew little about parenting or just didn’t care for the role. John’s early life was very sad. The actors who played him as a child were very good, especially the younger, adorable boy. Taron David Egerton who played Elton John as an adult was excellent. Surprisingly, he did his own singing and stunts, including one where he sang underwater.

It is not surprising when viewing a biopic of a rock & roll star that there would be problems with drugs and alcohol and this was a major focus of “Rocketman.” Even though the movie was long, it did not include his past twenty-eight years of sobriety, marriage and a family of his own.

Again, any Elton John fan will enjoy this movie. I did, in spite of believing that it could have been even better.

“The great thing about rock and roll is that someone like me can be a star.”      Elton John

Photos by Bing

Medicine 4

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Childbirth

Most mothers since the beginning of time had given birth at home with midwives or other women in attendance. It was a long, painful and exhausting experience. Finally in the 1850s wealthy women were offered some relief from ether after it was used for Queen Victoria during her labor. Following the Queen’s lead ether, chloroform, and even laughing gas in the United States, were administered for decades to women able to afford delivery in a hospital. Because some doctors were better trained than others babies being born at home were likely to have had safer births without the effects of these gases.

Painless Childbirth

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Page 1106 in our 1910 manuscript states that a method of “painless childbirth” had been developed by doctors, Bernard Kronig and Carl Gause, in Germany. Hallelujah! Just what every woman in the world had been hoping for. It sounded wonderful, even the name “Twilight Sleep” (Dämmerschlaf in German) was promising. Doctors from the US went to Germany to learn to use this new miracle combination of drugs that would herald childbirth without pain. Soon gas was out of favor and powerful drugs were in. 

Twilight sleep was said to be “especially suited to the requirement of nervous women.” I find it interesting that men were so sure what women needed in view of the fact that not one of them had passed a bowling-ball-sized human through their loins. To this day many men are inclined to have very strong opinions about a woman’s body and what she should be allowed to do with it, but back to the topic at hand. 

Twilight Sleep

Twilight Sleep was made up of a combination of morphine and scopolamine. Morphine is derived from opium and acts on the central nervous system, causing pain relief. Scopolamine comes from a mixture of nightshade plants. It causes patients to fall into a semi-conscious state resulting in amnesia.

Both drugs are still in use today, but not routinely with labor patients. Morphine is a powerful and useful pain reliever that can lead to opioid dependence in some situations. Scopolamine is used orally or by a transdermal patch to treat nausea, vomiting and motion sickness. You may have used or seen fellow passengers use these patches to prevent or combat seasickness.

Possible side effects from scopolamine listed today include the following:  drowsiness, disorientation, dry mouth, blurred vision, dilated pupils, confusion, hallucinations, difficulty urinating and rash.    https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682509.html

What is wrong with this picture? In retrospect, it does not seem a chemistry degree is necessary to foresee problems with this combination of drugs. The pain relief of morphine was a big plus for the laboring mother, however, it could depress respiration in the newborn leading to a life-threatening emergency. The scopolamine rendered the mother semiconscious during the painful childbirth experience, however, it caused amnesia. The mother usually remembered nothing of the experience including seeing her newborn for the first time nor hearing the first cries. The effects of this drug had significant potential to defer or even diminish bonding between mother and child. 

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Both of these drugs crossed the placenta and depressed the fetus’s central nervous system. For decades babies would be born drugged, and unable to breathe normally. It is no wonder they were held upside-down and spanked to start them breathing. After over sixty years of Twilight Sleep administration, the practice was abandoned in the 1970s due to the harmful side effects. Unfortunately, this was after the birth of my two daughters and I am sure after many of you or your children were born. 

Lakshmipati G. (Care of the Medical Outpatient, (Preface) 1st ed. 2003. pp. vii–vii. Nama publication, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu) has said:  

“Half of what is true today will be proven to be incorrect in the next five years. Unfortunately we don’t know which half that is going to be.” 

Sadly, this is true even today. One only hopes that such truth will be proven in only a few years rather than the centuries or decades it has taken in the past. 

 An Art or a Science?

Whether the practice of medicine is an art or a science has been debated for centuries. Many, if not most, feel that it must include both. For a comprehensive discussion of this subject read Dr. Sadhu Charan Panda’s research. He is Editor, Journal of Community Medicine.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3190445/

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Change, does it occur too fast or too slowly? 

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 The Complete Guide to Prevention and Cure of Disease is still in print. If you are interested in reading all 20 medical books in one volume written over 100 years ago see: https://www.amazon.com/Library-Health-Twenty-Books-One-Scholl/dp/B007GNBQB6/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516977599&sr=1-10&keywords=library+of+health+by+Scholl

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Part 4 of 4

Medicine

The Bookshelf

Bookshelves barely exist today. Those that remain often contain old books left over from a former era or perhaps ones with some sentimental memory attached. I must admit that I still like the feel of a real book and I like to highlight and make notes in margins. I can do that with my Kindle but it just does not feel the same. I will admit though that clicking on an unfamiliar word and having the definition pop up on the screen is a valuable feature of electronic readers. 

1970s Print

This framed print from my office is a drawing by Robert Conley.  Conley’s art was in tribute to nurses who cared for his terminally ill wife in the 1970s. I love it for many personal reasons, but I’m sharing it today to point out two essential medical books of that era. The Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) and The Merck Manual seen here were essentials in any clinical area. The PDR was published each year and contained page after page of details about each prescription drug available.  It was heavily used by doctors and nurses alike. The Merck Manual explained diagnoses and treatments. I am willing to bet that you do not recall seeing either of these in the past thirty years and younger readers will not likely remember ever seeing a doctor referencing a book of any kind. 

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The reason, of course, is that now all this information and so much more is available and up to date electronically. This easily accessible data saves time and, no doubt lives. One only needs a handheld device to answer any inquiry. 

1910 Manuscript

Recently I ran across a few pages I had photocopied from an old book at some point long ago. I have no recollection why I had them or had kept them, but I’m glad that I did. Especially since that out of all “Twenty Books” in the “One Volume” I had chosen to copy Book VIII entitled “Sexology.”

Library of Health – Complete Guide to Prevention and Cure of Disease

Edited by B. Frank School, Ph.G, M.D.

Graduate of Jefferson Medical College and Philadephia College of Pharmacy

Table of Contents:

Anatomy, Physiology and Preventive Medicine, Curative Medicine, First Aid Measures, Diagnosis, Nursing, Sexology, Simple Home Remedies, Care of the Teeth, Occupational Diseases, Garden Plant Remedies, Alcohol and Narcotics, Treatment by Fifteen Schools of Medicine, Beauty Culture, Physical Culture, the Science of Breathing and the Dictionary of Drugs. 

Historical Publishing Co.          Philadelphia, PA


In the next few posts, I will summarize some of the wisdom contained in this 108-year-old manuscript. So if you have questions about courtship, matrimony, procreation and more HANG ON! The answers are on the way. 

Part 1 of 4