Friday, November 2, 2007

21st century festering wounds-part the second

I live the typically atypical life of a scientist. Focused on a few molecules out of the staggering myriads that comprise life as we know it, I delight in connecting minutiae to diseases and the minions that deal them to the innocent and the guilty alike. Because of my delight in unraveling such mysteries, my path crossed Samuel Vespucci's one unusually cold summer day.

As I said before, Samuel was getting tired of the same unsettling procedure of having his leg wound literally scrubbed clean. He wasn't sure if he could take another treatment, but was not quite suicidal enough to let apathy take its course.

Because of this unending anguish and frustration with the status quo, it was then that he came to me.

I was working on my latest grant and faxing yet another form regarding my newest publication, when a human came to the door.

"Who could this be? Too old to be one of my students, too young {and definitely too poor} to be a rich codger with goodwill and a plan to donate our institution money." I thought this and similar thoughts to myself, and then noticed a strange gaping curve going into one of the man's legs.

With the graceless demeanor you would expect from someone in my profession, I continued mulling the possibilities over as he stared at me blankly.

Suddenly, it hit me. My latest attempt to connect my work on the bricks that make up a cell (called cytoskeletal proteins by nerds like me) to human diseases was staring me in the face! I remembered a strange e-mail I had received from a friend from college. Gregory Kim had gone on the road towards success, and saw the light that somehow flew past me by enrolling in medical school. Instead of slogging away for little pay, studying an organism that most people have never heard of--have YOU heard of Dictyostelium discoideum???----Greg was helping people directly, and being paid far more directly than I was as a junior faculty at an albeit prestigious institution.

And this was important to me on that cool summer day because I remembered Greg was part of the team that was baffled and befuddled by our friend Samuel Vespucci.

He had contacted me because I had been the guy to go to when a problem was strange. Call me a real-life House, M.D., without the limp, but when a zany answer was needed to solve an even zanier problem, I had a knack for finding the right answers. Perhaps that is why I opted to take the lower paycheck and stick with science.

"Andrew, you've got to drop everything you've got--we have a case unlike any other. Persistent infection with no signs of healing. Laceration was eaten away into a subinguinal..........."---Greg's frenzied voice called me one morning a few weeks ago, telling me all about Samuel's condition. He described the case in more detail, but it would sound like repetitive drivel to the non-clinician, so I will spare you the gory and droll details.
"Look Andrew, I'll e-mail you a reminder, but you've just GOT to see this Vespucci case for yourself."

All of these experiences of my youth, career choices, and current dedication to try to solve this mystery were playing and replaying in my head, as suddenly the world went back into focus and I remembered where I was---standing in my office on a cold summer day, starting at Samuel. As I began to introduce myself, the smell from Samuel's wound introduced itself to me.

It was then that I instantly vomited and lost consciousness.

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