Communicative area: inferring meaning from context 1. Read the information below. How important was the discovery?
The discovery of penicillin is attributed to Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming in 1928.
"When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn't plan to revolutionise all medicine by discovering the world's first antibiotic, or bacteria killer," Flem
ing would later say, "But I suppose that was exactly what I did".
2. You are going to read an excerpt from the autobiography, a retired philosophy professor, Dr. Morton Paterson, wrote for his grandchildren. What difference did penicillin bring to his life?
As a boy, just prior to the discovery of mass producing penicillin, Dr. Paterson had badly scraped his knee, an injury that he almost died from. The following is his account of this injury and how it was treated at that time.
It was the late spring of 1942, and I was seven years old. My sister Lorna had just been born. One day I was outside playing with my friends - running while playing tag or something. There weren't any parks or grassy fields, so the kids played on the rocks or on the streets. I fell on the street and scraped my right knee. I guess it was bleeding pretty bad, so I ran home. Later I was told that it was on a Wednesday, and that my temperature shot up and up. By Saturday Mum and Dad had a sick boy on their hands, so on the advice of Dr. Chappell, our family doctor, I was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital in Sudbury.
The cut on my knee had become infected, and I had blood poison. For a few days I guess I was "out of it", in a coma, and hung in the balance between life and death. I was diagnosed as having osteomyelitis, which means "bone infection". Apparently what happens with osteomyelitis is that the infected blood seeks out a part of the body which is already weak for some reason. In my case that happened to be the bone in my left hip. Anyway, they knew they had to operate fast to stop the infection before it travelled to a vital organ. That led to three months in hospital. The surgeon was Dr. Mowat, and I remember him as a very kind and soft-spoken man. He had to scrape out the infected bone, but then leave it open so the nurses could pack it every day with fresh gauze.
I've never been so scared in all my life. I didn't know why my hip was so sore and not getting better, and could tell that Dr. Mowat and my parents were pretty worried. As the nurses peeled away the old packing and re-packed my hip with fresh gauze they tried their best to cheer me up and not let on they were worried. I remember them saying, "Now be a brave little soldier, Mortie!"
Surgery had to be performed a few more times to clean out bone chips. All I can remember about those extra surgeries was being wheeled out of my room, down the corridor, and into a large bright "operating room". Suddenly a doctor (I later learned he or she is called the anesthetist) behind me would cover my face with a cloth and tell me start counting.
Looking back to that operating room experience these sixty- three years later I still remember my panic, crying out when the cloth went over my face. It had the most sickening smell I ever smelled, and I guess the scariest part was not knowing when they'd cart me down the corridor again and have that awful cloth suddenly draped over my face.
That's about it. When the infection was finally contained (by mid-summer), less and less packing was put into the incision till the day finally came that I could go home on little crutches that I still have. But there are a couple of other things I want to say about that summer.
One evening about ten o'clock, shortly after I'd been admitted to hospital, two nurses came to my bedside to check up on me. I wasn't asleep yet, but my eyes were closed and they thought I was. I remember clearly one of the nurses saying to the other, "Do you think he'll make it?" The other nurse answered, "I doubt it."
I didn't let on that I'd heard them. I was likely scared enough already so that the extra dose of pessimism didn't really register. Or - and this is quite likely true - perhaps little Mortie made up his mind right then and there that he WAS going to make it.
So after several months and with a lot of self determination, "Mortie" was finally able to go home. In 1946, there was a reoccurrence of the osteomyelitis, but by this time penicillin was available to the general public. The following, again, has been written by Dr. Paterson:
In 1946 my osteomyelitis returned!
Darn it. We had all thought that it was over and done with, even though we'd been warned that it might come back. But this time the infection was gone in only a few days.
This time Dr. Mowat used penicillin to stop the infection right away. It also eradicated it completely. Not once in all these years did osteomyelitis ever come back!
Miracle drug, indeed yes. But what is truly amazing is that penicillin was eventually produced in large quantities in order to treat soldiers who were dying on the battlefields of Europe not directly because of their wounds, but because of poisoned blood that carried the infection that set into those wounds. When they were treated with penicillin, many soldiers recovered. Of the thousands of soldiers who had died in battle in pre- penicillin World War I, many had died from pneumonia.
Remember that a nurse had told me in 1942 to "be a good little soldier"? I wasn't a real soldier, but I'm glad she said that.