A few years ago a friend told me a story about how a young guy whose life was saved by a doctor – and the story stuck in my mind. You would think that that’s what doctors are for – they save lives (they really do – I’m a living example) so maybe there’s nothing so special about this? But what was incredible about J.’s story was that the life-saving was, in a way, very unglamorous.
It involved no fancy operations or cutting edge technology. In fact, what was important was that the doctor was old (and once served in the military). Old enough to remember the diseases soldiers used to get a lot – including syphilis. He remembered the early symptoms and was able to identify ‘the pox’, from which the young man suffered, at a stage at which a younger doctor possibly couldn’t.
If he’d had been treated by someone who went to medical school after syphilis supposedly slipped into medical history, the disease might not have been identified and he would likely have been exposed to its awful consequences. And syphilis’ symptoms and consequences are not a walk in the park and include everything from skin ulceration (including in the genital and rectal areas), cardiovascular issues and very serious neurological problems (friendly advice: do NOT google image syphilis). Although many people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years, they remain at risk for late complications if they are not properly taken care of. Untreated, syphilis is very bad for you: it has a mortality of 8% to 58% (and watch out – it discriminates and has a greater death rate in males). [Read more...]