Pyramids, Pneumothoraces, and Presumptions

You know what bothers me?

It bothers me when people don’t corral their shopping carts.

It also bothers me when people act like ancient peoples were stupid.

Take the theory that aliens built/helped in the building of the Great Pyramids of Egypt and other ancient monuments (1). Some people have decided that the ancient Egyptians couldn’t possibly have pulled off those constructions on their own. Therefore, aliens. (2)

You mean you think people noticed the behavior of the stars back then and built around it?? Naw, that’s crazy talk. Ancient people were too busy huddling in caves, scratching themselves, and grunting at each other to actually notice their surroundings. Surely they didn’t envision and build grand things. Only aliens would have been capable of noticing and taking advantage of celestial patterns.

And the Nasca lines, which are truly enormous depictions of shapes and animals (1). People made those. Not aliens.

Whut? B-but people couldn’t possibly draw big spiders!!!! IT MUST HAVE BEEN ALIENS. ONLY ALIENS COULD DRAW BIG SPIDERS.  

I get it. Aliens are cool to think about. But must everything mysterious be attributed to aliens? It’s like the conspiracy theorists don’t believe people were the same species we are today. It’s a slap to human ingenuity.

Humans are smart. They were smart. They are smart. They will continue to be smart.* Just because they didn’t write down every idea and accomplishment doesn’t mean they didn’t have any ideas or accomplishments.

To affirm that humans of the past were smart, let me tell you about Serefeddin Sabuncuoğlu. You know, that guy. Everyone knows about him. They have a whole week about him in grade school. Kids dress up as him. There’s a Broadway musical in his honor.

I’m kidding. Very few people know about Serefeddin Sabuncuoğlu. But now you know about Serefeddin Sabuncuoğlu! So, what is it about Serefeddin Sabuncuoğlu that is worth knowing?

Serefeddin was a very smart man. He was also a physician living in the Ottoman Empire in the 1300s-1400s (4). Serefeddin left his mark by writing the Turkish piece Cerrahiyetü’l Haniyye, which translates as “Imperial Surgery” (3).
Serefeddin knew a lot of crap. But I’m going to tell you about the crap that impresses me the most.

First, a quick lesson in anatomy and pathophysiology. That’s dork talk for where-people-parts-are-and-what-they’re-called (anatomy) and how-things-go-wrong-with-people-parts (pathophysiology).

Imma gonna tell you about the pneumothorax.

Pneumo = air. Thorax =chest. It’s dork talk for what normal humans with lives call a “collapsed lung”.

What’s a collapsed lung?

Lungs work thanks to changes in air pressure. When you inhale, your diaphragm  tightens and the lungs expand. This lowers the air pressure in the lungs, which pulls in air from the outside. The lungs fill with air and oxygen is absorbed into the blood. You exhale: the diaphragm relaxes, the lungs are smushed, and air is pushed out.

That’s how things normally work.

But what happens when you get a pneumothorax?

Let’s say something screws up this lovely little rhythm you and your lungs have got going. You’re just sitting there, minding your own business. You and your lungs. Then an Ottoman warrior buddy of yours decides to engage you in a wrestling match and tackles you to the ground. But you land on a rock and a couple of your ribs snap. And then one of the ribs pokes a hole in your lung.

BAM. Your lung has a leak, and now you’re growing a pneumothorax. Thanks a lot, Ottoman warrior buddy. Air pushes out of your lung and into the space between the lung and the chest wall.

Here are pictures, because visuals help:

 

lungs
The more you inhale, the more air may end up in this space. The more air ends up in this pocket, the more  that air pushes on the lung. The more the stupid air pushes on the lung, the more the lung deflates. The more the lung deflates, the less air gets in it. The less air gets in it, the less oxygen you absorb.

The less oxygen you absorb, the sicker you get.

You’ve got yourself a pneumothorax. How do you fix it?

Tiny pneumothoraces can patch themselves up, but larger ones need help. The trick is to remove that misplaced air pressure – restoring the proper settings – so the lung can re-inflate like a happy lung. Nowadays, we often use chest tubes to do this.

But Serefeddin Sabuncuoğlu did not have chest tubes. Serefeddin Sabuncuoğlu would have been helpless in the case of a pneumothorax, right?

Wrong! Serefeddin Sabuncuoğlu knew how to encourage a collapsed lung to re-inflate. In cases like these, Serefeddin used a cupping technique called mihceme, which had been in use before to draw out blood (5). To treat a collapsed lung with this, Serefeddin would cut an incision over the injured area. A glass container of sorts was then placed, and a flame was started in the container. The fire would consume the oxygen in the glass, which created a vacuum. (5) This vacuum would pull the air (and blood, if you had a hemothorax going on too) out of the pocket causing the pneumothorax. This gave the damaged lung a chance to re-inflate. That made for a more comfortable Ottoman warrior.

And that’s SO FRIGGIN’ SMART.

The end.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

References (and a Footnote)

*I also think humans are stupid, have long been stupid, and will continue to be stupid until things change on a fundamental level. But hush – I stand by both assertions.

1) https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/travel-interests/arts-and-culture/ancient-sites-built-by-aliens/

2) http://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/793767/Pyramids-Giza-how-when-built-ancient-aliens

3) http://www.muslimheritage.com/article/15th-century-turkish-physician-serefeddin-sabuncuoglu-author-cerrahiyetu-%E2%80%98l-haniyye

4) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9Eerafeddin_Sabuncuo%C4%9Flu

5)https://www.researchgate.net/publication/24422201_Were_Pneumothorax_and_Its_Management_Known_in_15th-Century_Anatolia

 

 

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Pyramids, Pneumothoraces, and Presumptions

How Good is Too Good? – Scrupulosity and Mennonites

Have you ever had the nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten something extremely important?

What about that sinking or jolting feeling when you miss a step and your foot hits air?

Imagine this feeling was constant. An ever-present buzz in your brain. It ebbs and flows. Sometimes it is the mild drone of a small fan, noticed only when all other distractions cease. Sometimes it’s an urgent murmur that’s difficult to ignore.

Sometimes it swells to a roar that swallows you whole. It wraps its fingers around your chest and throat and squeezes. Hard. It narrows your vision. It swirls in your ears. It sends your thoughts into a tailspin, and you know for a fact that you are spiraling into the deepest pit of hell.

But no matter the volume, the dread is always there. Even in your dreams.

Your brain scrambles to explain the unease. It tries anything to make it go away. Anything for peace.

This is what happens when your mind has become a slave to fear.

It happened to me. It could happen to me again. I’ve seen it happen to others.

In conservative Anabaptist circles, anxiety can manifest as scrupulosity. That’s a big word for a form of obsessive compulsive disorder which targets moral or religious thoughts and behavior. It is an unhealthy guilt which drives the affected person to perform rituals as he or she attempts to silence the sense of doom.

These rituals take different forms. Prayers, chants, attending church functions, and more unorthodox things. One might be so terrified of telling a lie that he can barely answer a question for the fear of not answering correctly. Someone may make so many overlapping promises to God that she’s somehow promised herself into being unable to click “like” on Facebook without sending a scriptural card to someone first.

However it manifests, the individual suffers. They become paralyzed. Crippled. Exhausted. Any joy they would have had in their relationship with Jesus is stripped away and replaced with fear and despair.

It is a living hell, and I hate seeing other young people walk through it.

I don’t know whether or not conservative Anabaptists have more anxiety than the population at large. I doubt that we do. Anxiety is a massive problem in the general population. Obsessive compulsive disorder is found across the country. Scrupulosity is not at all limited to Mennonites.

But I do think that when Mennos have anxiety and other mental problems, those problems tend to build themselves upon spiritualized rationale as opposed to things like a fear of germs.

Disclaimer: I don’t mean for this to be some venomous attack on my denomination. I’ve had a truly blessed experience with my home church, and I continue to do so. I think my upbringing holds tremendous value.

But there are a few things we do that seem to contribute to the problem of spiritualized mental illness.

A.) We disavow eternal security

The average Mennonite is no Calvinist. We do think you can lose your salvation. We believe that there is no small sin, and that a holy God cannot be in the presence of any degree of sin. We believe that Christians must live a life of repentance, constantly turning from evil instead of relying on a one-time prayer.

I do believe these things are true. However, an anxiety-vulnerable person is, well, anxiety-vulnerable. When he or she hears something urgent but somewhat vague, or even not that vague, his or her mind defaults to a position of doubt.

“Am I saved? Was I saved? Have I lost my salvation? I don’t really do anything that special. I just live my life like I was raised to. That’s not special.”

B.) We handle grace clumsily sometimes… I guess that’s why we need it

Grace is a tremendous and mind-blowing concept. It also doesn’t seem to sink in properly until each of us is ready for it. I grew up in a church where we at least try to teach it.

Even then, things have gotten awkward. We speak of grace, but then we imply that every wrongdoing must be made right with God before we’re safe to meet Him. Snapped at someone this morning? Better pray for forgiveness in case you die today.

We speak of grace, but a well-known minister stands behind the pulpit and says, “Young ladies, don’t you know that if your dress causes a man to sin, you are going to hell?!?

And it doesn’t seem all that gracious.

C.) Sometimes we insist on further spiritualizing a mental problem

As human beings, we have a knack for complicating what should be simple and simplifying what should be complicated. I think the idea is fading, but there are still those who believe mental problems such as depression and anxiety are more like moods or character flaws than illnesses. Depressed people should try something that makes them feel good and stop feeling sorry for themselves. Anxious people should just be rational and stop being so insecure.

This mentality fails to account for the fact that the brain is an organ with as much potential to misfire as the pancreas or the heart. Given the astounding complexity of the brain, I’d argue that it has even more potential to mess up. It can often be rewired, with time, but it definitely messes up and will always have weaknesses.

The misinterpretation of mental illness gets even uglier when spiritualized reasoning is thrown into the mix.

I remember sitting in a class at a Bible school as a classmate expressed concern about a friend of hers. This woman appeared to be dealing with a hypersensitive conscience. She was acutely worried about doing wrong, and the fear had robbed joy from her life. The teacher attempted to justify this by explaining – with the help of a diagram – that my classmate’s friend may be projecting the guilt over a truly severe mystery-sin onto a bunch of other, smaller wrongdoings.

That was years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if said teacher since changed his views on the subject. It was, however, just the sort of ominous insinuation that could send a vulnerable person into a tailspin.

And what of skepticism of modern medicine? Do you know of anyone who believes that taking medication for mental illness is a sign of faithlessness? There are those who assert that a mental problem is solely a spiritual one with only a spiritual solution. Perhaps, if the person suffering from serious anxiety just believed in God’s protection harder, he or she wouldn’t be going through this, right???

Right????

Spiritual problems exist, but we must be careful not to inject them where they don’t. A person with scrupulosity already overly moralizes and spiritualizes things. That’s part of their problem.

~~~

Those are some of my thoughts. Again, this is not meant to be a scathing attack, nor is it really meant as blame. These are things I think we could do better to help those suffering and perhaps prevent it.

I want to help. I want to use my journey to help those with the same struggles. I want this to help those who don’t have those struggles to understand. I want it to help us as a community to notice when someone is suffering, and to know how to point those individuals to grace.

There is healing. There is hope. There is joy. It can come.

It might not come in a tidy formulaic package, but by the grace and timing of God it can come.

How Good is Too Good? – Scrupulosity and Mennonites

A Call to Fashion

Boys, we need to talk.

There’s something I’d like you to bring back to everyday fashion.

It’s the waistcoat.

1
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/21040323232555454/

Do you see this? Do you see the mastery behind this article of clothing?


2
https://www.pinterest.com/fosconsultingUK/mens-waistcoatsvests/


Do you see how it slims the waist?

3https://www.pinterest.com/explore/waistcoat-designs/

Do you see how it reinforces the natural “V” of your torso? Do you see how it simultaneously frames your face?

4https://www.boards.ie/b/thread/2057294198

Insta-dapper. Insta-well-groomed. Pop a nicely tailored one of these babies over a good shirt and BAM, you’re Hugh Jackman.

5https://plus.google.com/+KimberlyChapman/posts/3pPFqigW7Rw

…well, okay. Maybe not Hugh Jackman. We can’t all be Hugh Jackman.

Still. Wear more waistcoats.

 

A Call to Fashion

Surgery and Confounded Pathologists

February was a wild month.

It started with the discovery of a large mass in my pelvis. It continued with cancer markers, a CT-scan, an appointment with a gyn-oncologist, and an MRI. I named the tumor Lolita.

It culminated in major abdominal surgery that consisted of biopsies and the loss of my left ovary and fallopian tube.

It ended in the process of recovery. And the revelation that, while the surrounding biopsies were clear, the in-house pathologist could not diagnose the mass. Now I’m awaiting the diagnosis from Brigham and Women’s.

It’s just a relief to hear that whatever the tumor is, it kept to itself. That is a tremendously good sign.

Now I’m sitting at home on medical leave and have no excuse to avoid writing.

My first major health issue has been a stretching and strange experience. It has driven home my own mortality. It has given me a whole new understanding of what it is like to be a patient, and what my patients might be looking for in their nurse. It has rendered me vulnerable in my youth. It has brought out depths of love and support that have made me feel safe in the midst of danger. It has reaffirmed the importance of a having a network of people that care for you.

It has seen me poked and prodded with all sorts of foreign objects. From needles to intravascular contrast to the dreaded urinary catheter to IV lines to a scalpel and cautery to sutures, my body saw quite a bit of intrusion last month.

Pity it can’t tell the difference between something done for its own good and being disemboweled by a rampaging wolverine.

A board-certified rampaging wolverine wielding a scalpel.

Surgery stinks. The drugs involved are incredible. Just… losing the hours during the operation was a surreal experience. I was laying in PACU commenting on the fact that I was feeling the effects of the versed. Then I was dreaming about the squeeze of the sequential compression devices on my legs. Then I was awake and listening to the chatter of the recovery room staff. Everything in between is simply gone.

I was high as a kite on the first night. I went home on the third day. My spirits and my physical comfort came crashing down on the fourth night. The trend has been upward after that.

I am recovering very well. It has been two weeks since surgery, and my discomfort is mild. I feel like myself again. I’m able to take walks. Today the incision barely bothers me.

February was a wild month.

Surgery and Confounded Pathologists

Self Awareness, Anyone?

American politics is toxic.

I haven’t been around long enough to know if it’s always been this way, and I’ve definitely contributed my share to the madness. But I am ready for a change in the way we dialogue.

Can we have campaigns with actual debates about policy? Can we have campaigns without moral grandstanding? Can we have campaigns without the silencing of opposition with nothing more than a label? Can we have an election that doesn’t end with people hoping for an assassination? Can we have an election that doesn’t result in wounded emotions and bouts of depression? Can we have an election without calls for violence and revolution? Can we have an election without remarks that will only fuel racial tension?

The bipartisan system has become a self-perpetuating machine that doesn’t even make sense anymore. The amount of confirmation bias and ideological inconsistency within both the neocons and the progressive left is simultaneously laughable and maddening.

To the progressive left: I’ll paraphrase Jason Stapleton. You are not scared of Trump. He’s been around. You are scared of the power Trump would wield as President. You have no problem with executive power when it’s in the hands of those you like or even abused by those you like. But in the fall of 2008, Obama’s opponents found that power genuinely scary.

To the neocons/alt-right: I’ll keep paraphrasing Jason Stapleton. You were not scared of Obama in 2008. He’d been around. You were scared of the power Obama would wield as President. You have no problem with executive power when it’s in the hands of those you like or even abused by those you like. But in the fall of 2016, Trump’s opponents are finding that power genuinely scary.

To the progressive left: Insisting on the right to abortion after fetal viability “for the life or health of the mother” is patently nonsensical. Six words: Induction of labor or cesarean section. There’s no medical advantage to killing the fetus first.

To the neocons: Late-term abortions happen, but the vast majority of abortions happen much earlier. Also, people generally do not like abortion. But some of them think it should remain a legal option. Address their rationale.

To the progressive left: Just because a disproportionate number of blacks are killed by police does not mean the American police force is racist and genocidal.

To the neocons: Just because a disproportionate number of black women get abortions does not mean Planned Parenthood is racist and genocidal.

To the progressive left: If the government has no business in the bedroom, then why does it have any business delineating what is and is not a marriage? Isn’t marriage personal?

To the neocons: Why keep the government involved in marriage? Does the government have any business telling people and religious communities what a marriage is?

To the progressive left: People should be allowed to decline to participate in things to which they personally object. Any government force you wish to use on your enemies can just as easily be used on you. Be consistent.

To the neocons: Just because you personally object to something doesn’t mean there should be legislation against it. Any government force you wish to use on your enemies can just as easily be used on you. Be consistent.

To the progressive left: Your methods of handling race relations are terrible and counterproductive.

To the neocons: All of us practice prejudice. Racism exists. Introspection is okay.

To the progressive left: Hillary Clinton is corrupt, unoriginal, and seems intent on war.

To the alt-right: Trump is an immoral and egotistical buffoon. He’s also kind of an ass.

To the progressive left: Censorship is stupid. Hate speech is subjective.

To the alt-right: Don’t be rude and nasty and inflammatory just for the sake of it.

To the progressive left: Stop the completely skewed take on race and gender. It makes you collectivists. Collectivism has a bad habit of mistreating thousands of people because it tramples the individual.

To the alt-right: Stop reacting to the “cultural Marxism” of the left by becoming collectivists. Collectivism has a bad habit of mistreating thousands of people because it tramples the individual.

To the progressive left: If Bernie Sanders had won the Democratic nomination and then the presidential election, there would be excited communists. There would be waving of the hammer and sickle. Huge numbers of people died under the hammer and sickle. Would the celebration of said communists and the waving of such a flag bother you? Would you like seeing Sanders conflated with Stalin?

To the alt-right: Stay far, far away from Richard Spencer. Also, there’s nothing wrong with being happy about an election. Just be adults and do your gloating within your own circles.

To both the progressive left and neocons/alt-right: Take a good, long look in the mirror.

Self Awareness, Anyone?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Winter is not my favorite season.

Christmas is lovely. Shortening days, persistent darkness, skeletal trees, and a dearth of lively creatures is not.

Neither is the surge of illness. My own body is dealing with that right now.

But today is a good day for me to be sick.

We had a decent snowfall. It’s very pretty. The house is warm and quiet. The black cat is comfortable in his blanket-lined box on the floor. He’s keeping me company. He’s been getting more attention since the death of our other cat. He likes it.

I have some Christmas gifts I could prepare.

Or I could sleep. Again.

It’s not a bad day.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Hello Blogosphere.

I’m afraid my tendency to not keep up with blogs has struck again. This is at least somewhat due to a lack of motivation. At any rate, my brother at Irregular Ideation is much more prolific.

A few updates:

I do have bloggable thoughts. I just don’t sit down and blog them.

Lena the lizard died. I don’t know why.

Sapphire, my cat of 16 years, also died. I know why, and ultimately it was because she was old. That death was much more upsetting than the death of Lena the fertile lizard.

Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States. I think I know why. I in fact have a lot of thoughts about this election.

Yesterday I reinstalled Windows on my laptop in order to free up my hard drive/improve performance. The process has been educational.

I still have baby lizards.

It has been very windy.

The German language assigns one of three genders to words and it makes things difficult.

I’m going to bed now.