Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My apologies for missing last week’s blog. My daughter, who lives in San Diego, was in a motorcycle accident. When the bike fell, her left hand was caught under the handle. Among other things, the ring finger on her left hand was scraped down to the tendon. (I immediately booked a plane ticket to California, thankful the accident hadn’t been worse.)

What does this have to do with The Borrowed Book blog? A couple of things. I’m still in San Diego, away from my research books. I’m also busy taking care of things for my daughter who can’t use her left hand. That means I can’t write the article I’d intended. But I can share a couple of interesting things with you.

Two weeks ago I told you the story of baby Mabel, the sister my grandmother never knew. Mabel most likely died from a disease called cholera infantum, which isn’t related to cholera at all, although the symptoms are similar. I had planned to explore this disease in more depth—especially some of the treatments that were used at the time—but I haven’t had the time. However, here’s a tidbit that I discovered during my research.

You know that thick, pink concoction we use to soothe our upset tummies called Pepto-Bismol®? A recent television commercial for the product ended with, “Pink does more than you think!” That could be changed to, “Pink is more historical than you think.”

In the late 1800s, a doctor from New York developed the original formula to cure (none other than) cholera infantum. The original ingredients were pepsin, zinc salts, salol*, and oil of wintergreen. He colored it pink and called it Mixture Cholera Infantum. The formula has changed since then, as has the name and manufacturer. You can read more about the history here: .

I don’t know if the old Pepto-Bismol® cured cholera infantum, but I do know if Mabel had been born one hundred years later, she probably would have lived. In fact, I doubt she would have contracted the disease at all. And one hundred years ago (according to the plastic surgeon who operated on my daughter’s hand) an injury like the one she received would have meant the loss of the use of her finger. (There was no flesh over the tendon for skin to grow on, so the tendon would have hardened and stopped working.) Imagine farmers or sailors working with thick rope. . .

I’m grateful for a merciful God who has given us the medical knowledge we have today. And I'm grateful that my daughter wasn't hurt more severely. 

*Salol, also known as phenyl salicylate, is a chemical substance introduced in 1886 by Marceli Nencki of Basel. It was created by heating salicylic acid with phenol, which forms a white powder that supposedly tastes pleasant. It has been used to absorb light in sun tan lotions and plastic, a preservative, an antiseptic, and a coating for pills. Salol supposedly had an antibacterial effect in the small intestine. It’s also used in lab demonstrations to show how cooling rates affect crystal size in igneous rocks. Based on its chemical name (phenyl salicylate), it must also be related to Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid), but I don't exactly know how. Wow. Talk about versatility.


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