This week, I coined a term, “Mutually Supportive Healthcare”, describing a medical system in which the health and well-being of others is important because it has a direct impact on YOUR health and well-being. A lot of the information I will be sharing is used in my CBRNE training classes, in the very first section, “Your Body and How it Works.” There will be a couple of interactive parts, and I hope that it will be fun and informative.
As an opener, I wish to thank all of you who work in ANY aspect of the medical/healthcare field. I operate on only the periphery of your profession, and your knowledge, skill, and dedication are an inspiration to me. In a very real sense, you allow civilization to thrive and grow.
Over the last few weeks, I have heard an awful lot of sneering at how the Africans have handled the Ebola crisis. It is easy to forget that not long ago, American cities were filled with streets of animal manure, open slaughterhouses, and human waste. Millions of people packed together in tiny apartments, with common toilets (if any at all), unsafe drinking water and no food standards, working in factories and mines with no concept of safety or health. Plagues were always present in one form or another, and hospitals had whole wards dedicated to children dying from Whooping Cough. Until the discovery of viruses and bacteria, millions died from simple infections, and pregnancy was a roll of the dice death sentence to women.
People say that the Earth was perfectly designed for us personally, but that is a stretch. We only live on the surface of our world, 75% of our water is in an undrinkable state, and 100 kilometers of atmosphere is all that protects us from the sun that gives us warmth and light, but without which we would die soon. It is a balancing act.
Your body is composed of of 65% Oxygen, 18% Carbon, 10% Hydrogen, 3% Nitrogen and 4% other by mass. Most of these are gases, but the majority of the hydrogen and oxygen are in the form of water. You breathe in air to get oxygen (to run various body processes) and exhale carbon dioxide which the trees on land and the phytoplankton in the ocean use in a reverse process. Since we also give off heat, we need a lot of water and food to keep us warm. (An alligator is happy with one chicken a week).
Your body is run on a series of electrical and chemical processes, most of which are unconsciously controlled by the brain. Here comes the first interactive part.
Hold out your arm. Now, raise it at the elbow. Lower it back down.
To do that, your brain sent electrical impulses to your arm. It also produced enzymes to help you raise your arm, and produced different ones to help you lower it. Cool, huh?
Interactive #2. Think of a pleasant memory. One that you remember with all five of your senses. Go on, I will wait.
Can you see it in your mind, and are you re-experiencing all of those sensations? Good.
Memories are stored in your brain. Unlike our home computers, your brain uses chemical processes to collect data, and to retrieve it as needed. It is protected from harm by the blood brain barrier, but lots of substances people abuse get through it.
When you take medicines or vitamins, these usually activate your bodies processes to cause a variety of chemical reactions. When you drink your morning cup of coffee, you are using the caffeine to stimulate your body to make you more awake. (I do not drink coffee. I use Def Leppard music.)
Now we get to the part that some people find yucky. Your body is like the Earth, and contains at least a trillion living organisms! At this very moment, these things are living, eating, fighting, and dying all over you, inside and out. They are named bacteria, fungi, and archaea. They cover the surface of your skin, all through your digestive tract, and other parts of the body.
Many people I have told this to have a hard time, often because of their idea that we are “normal size.” Size is a very relative term. The universe is vast, and below our level of sight are creatures who think your house is vast.
None of these creatures have any awareness that you exist; you are just their “planet”. Most are benign, and simply live their lives. Many are helpful, defending “their home” against diseases or helping your body processes. Some are harmful, eating tiny parts of you or their excrement makes you ill. Some have even learned to activate your body’s defenses to protect them from predators. (Imagine you are walking along with a large staff, and a group of robbers approach. You strike the ground with your staff and a mini-volcano appears and kills the robbers. It is something like that).
If you are really grossed out or feel all itchy, I suggest washing in ethanol to kill the viruses and n-propanol alcohol to kill the bacteria. Anti-bacterial soap in a hot shower is a good choice.
When most people think of enemies, they talk about other humans; ISIS, radicals, separatists, etc. top the current lists. But your only true enemies are bacteria and viruses. (Bacteria can in seen in a microscope, and viruses are even smaller.) Your entire life, they wage a mostly unseen war against you. Unless you die from bad living habits or some kind of accident, ultimately they will win.
Read that last sentence again, and let it sink in.
Your body fights a constant struggle against the single largest number of living creatures on this world. You will kill untold billions as you fight to survive. As a child, you build up your defenses. Your mother’s body protects you as you form, and her milk gives you additional defenses. As you grow, you will encounter diseases (through contact or preventive shots), and you will form anti-bodies to protect you. After a few years of peak health, your defenses will begin to wear down, and injury and disease can happen more easily. Eventually, the invaders will overcome all your body’s attempts, and they will win.
Even in death, they will not leave you alone, devouring you down to bones. If you want to get the last laugh, get cremated, and take them out as well!
It seems morbid, but there is a lot you can do. Get a HEPA filter system with UV light added to your air conditioner. UV light systems in the home and work, or even hydrogen peroxide generators will help. (The latter make everything smell nice and that is a big plus). Don’t be frightened of radiated food or when food is protected by scientific means. Live a healthy lifestyle, avoid things that damage your body, and being happy improves your defenses.
Now to the “Mutually Supportive Healthcare” part. In the military, they maintain your health, not just because they want you to be at your peak, but because they don’t want you to get other people sick. When I was in basic, the last bay in our barracks developed a really bad cold, and the disease walked down to the other end. You could see the progression daily. Most of our 150 men got ill.
When someone says, “I don’t care about the health of others”, what they are really saying is, “I don’t care if these people become germ factories and infect other people.” It does little good to protect some, while the others become ill. There are always points of interaction (schools, businesses, streets) and disease will spread. Bacteria and viruses do not care who you voted for, how much money you have, where you live, which ethnic/religious groups you like or dislike. You are all the same to them; FOOD. Like in zombie movies. (In fact, the zombie virus in “World War Z” was made to exactly mimic certain contagious diseases, so watch that film.)
It has taken the lifetimes of medical personnel and government officials to get us to where we are today, but it is still a thin line of defense against our environment. Just look at how diseases spread after a natural disaster. Do you really want “the Good Old Days” to return?
Anyway, I hope that this inspired you to learn more, that you were not too grossed out, and maybe you will come to think of things in a new light.
Now, where is my hand sanitizer?