What We Could Lose
November 12th, 2006

I have been diagnosed with the neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis. I got that diagnosis in May. Making a long story short, about three weeks ago, the MG started to get much more acute. Since my limited experience up to that time was that the medications I was taking would make it go away, I did not realize that I was building up to what is called a “crisis” in the MG.

Three weeks ago Thursday, I woke up at 4:00am knowing “I am in trouble.” I couldn’t speak, couldn’t swallow and could barely move. After considerable difficulty and with the help of a passer-by (it is a Catch-22 of 911 that if you can’t speak, it doesn’t work), I got to the Emergency Room at New York Presbyterian Hospital, which is just down the street from where I live. They lived up to their reputation, in full. Their senior neurologist was there and it was like an angel of mercy when he stormed into the examining area where I was already being looked at by junior doctors and writing my answers on printer paper I had taken with me. “I know exactly what the problem is – he can’t speak, he can’t swallow and he can’t clear his lungs. We have to move right now.” Which we did. Up to the ICU. I was in intensive care for six days. I wasn’t able to speak or swallow for about four days. Why am I telling you this? The way they stop the crisis aside from IV drugs is to clean your blood through a process called plasmapharesis. I got my first treatment of plasmapharesis within two hours of being admitted to the ICU. It doesn’t work right away. The process – similar to dialysis – takes about two hours, and then starts to have an effect over the next 12 hours. So after my first treatment of plasmapharesis, I am sitting in this amazingly comfortable, highly articulared bed, looking out at the “million dollar view” – New York Hospital is on the East River, so the view is spectacular.

And thoughts come into my mind.

One is how amazing it is to feel your body come back to life. Like being born again. Very profound. One give thanks for one’s blessings. And what are those blessings? Here I am in New York Hospital. And what is that?

An army of people who have studied for many years to practice what they do – saving lives. And what do they study? Ideas that have been teased out of nature over several hundred years, each one the life work of a genius.

And the blood-cleaning machine. The fundamental technology of the machine is very likely the life’s work of another genius or geniuses.

And then the idea was engineered and manufactured to clinical specifications of effectiveness and sterility. They can actually take the blood out of your body, wash it, and put it back!!

And how did they know what to wash? More life’s work of more geniuses who discovered the chemistry of the blood and the immune system.

THAT is a culture of life. The work of centuries. The product of a civilization that is unafraid to ask questions.

In effect New York Hospital (and, of course all the others) is the Parthenon of our time – the great monument of our civilization. Along with other achievements. Perhaps one of the great monuments of our civilization is a better phrase. Now, could it be destroyed? Easily. One car bomb outside and the whole thing comes crashing down.

The Islamists hate unfettered inquiry. They look at the last millennium of Western life and progress as a step away from the perfection of nomadic life in Arabia more than a dozen centuries ago. They hate intellectual progress and its necessary tool, intellectual property.

The people who only destroy what others have created, congratulating themselves on being missionaries of Allah are nothing. To make a contribution to a place like New York Hospital, to the science of life, you would have to dedicate yourself to education, to knowledge, to nursing, or doctoring or science.

We could lose it all.

Greg Richards is an occasional contributor to American Thinker. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Greg Richards