What a Piece of Work Is Man

“God delights in concealing things;
scientists delight in discovering things.”
Proverbs 25:2 (The Message)

We find ourselves in an unfortunate “debate” in modern America over matters of what should be simple science. I was recently chastised for pushing my beliefs on others. Was I going door-to-door handing out religious literature? Putting political flyers under windshield wipers at the Walmart parking lot? Trying to convince him that the UT Vols have a chance?

No, no, and no.

My social media crime was advocating for vaccination against the worst pandemic of my lifetime, a disease that has claimed 650,000 American lives in less than two years. A disease that is readily mitigated by a well-proven vaccine that is readily available.

There are at least five reasons that I “believe” in modern medical science, besides the main reason being that I am alive. Allow me to explain.

Reason #1

I was only twelve years old, in 1970, when I had my first run-in with the medical profession. A friend’s mom had noticed my neck looked swollen. A trip to the doctor, a few tests later, and I was under the knife for a partial thyroidectomy. After pathology results came back it was decided that a total thyroidectomy was required. Fast forward a year, and a routine follow-up scan showed that I had thyroid cancer, so off to surgery I went for a ten-hour modified radical neck dissection to remove numerous masses. Over the following six years I received I-131 radiation therapy to completely ablate the remaining cancer tissue.

The good news was I was not going to die of cancer, but that I would spend the rest of my life on Synthroid and supplements to maintain calcium levels. Modern medical science for the win!

I spent the next several decades living my life, routinely going to the doctor to check on my thyroid. And that’s when a new problem cropped up.

Reason #2

It turns out that I was born with a bicuspid aortic valve. It also turns out that those valves calcify over time and can no longer pump an adequate blood supply to the body. As I was laying on the table during the heart Cath procedure, the fine doctor was struggling to get the probe past the valve. He said, ominously, “I’ve never been not able to get past the valve” to which I answered, “How do you fix it?” to which HE answered, “You don’t fix it, you replace it!”

Easy for him to say.

At the fairly young age of 45 I found myself headed into surgery, the big kahuna of surgery, open-heart. My chest was cracked, I spent a few hours on the pump, the brilliant surgeon installed a new human tissue valve, and just like that, I was good as new. Well, it took a few months of therapy and a couple years to heal, but I was alive, my life prolonged again by modern medical science. Yay for modern medicine!

Not everything is life-and-death, though. Which brings me to:

Reason #3

During a routine eye exam, the ophthalmologist noted I had a macular bubble in my left eye. Nothing drastic, but it wouldn’t get better by itself. Off to the specialist I went to confirm the good news, and then off to surgery I headed. After watching (I was awake) the excellent doctor poke three holes in my eyeball, suck out the vitreous fluid, repair the problem, the problem was solved. Mostly – because I have learned that whenever you start cutting on the body, things aren’t as perfect as they started out. Ultimately, I had a cataract in the same eye, which was easily fixed by standard and widespread cataract surgery. Another one in the win column for modern medicine.

But we are, after all, steadily deteriorating and headed to the grave. Sorry, but it’s true and there’s no need to sugarcoat it. And that aortic valve? It was deteriorating, too.

Reason #4

Turns out, a human tissue aortic valve replacement is good for 10-14 years. And just shy of my 14th anniversary of open-heart surgery, my valve threw in the towel. I dreaded the thought of going back to that place again, of the horrible surgery, the long rehabilitation. It was a dark night of my soul as I lay in the hospital on oxygen, waiting on the verdict.

The verdict was astounding. Seems like in the intervening 14 years a new process had evolved of replacing the valve with the modern medical marvel of a bovine pericardial and titanium valve – without open heart surgery! After a relatively simple (well, for me anyway, as I just laid there) procedure of inserting the valve by catheter, hence the name Trans Catheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) I was out of the hospital in 24 hours.

It seems modern medical science was getting more modern by the day.

But I wasn’t done yet.

Reason #5

On August 19th, 2019, I was delivered to Erlanger Hospital with unusual spasms. I went into a long seizure, was intubated, had a 104 temperature, and no known cause. Testing was exhaustive and the fine doctors, nurses and staff kept me alive for a week. I woke up with nearly everything wrong you could think – cognitive dysfunction, double vision, no use of legs, couldn’t write a sentence. I was alive, but it was not good. The diagnosis was Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and I was fortunate, no, blessed, to have even lived. Out of 36 cases in the US last year, 1/3 did not leave the hospital, and the rest never resumed normal life.

And that’s when I experienced the under-appreciated part of modern medicine – Physical Therapy. It turns out there are medical folks committed to helping people with brain injuries resume a somewhat normal life. After three weeks at Siskin Hospital for Rehabilitation, I was discharged on a walker. A total of six weeks had passed since the ambulance delivered me to the ER, and I had regained most ADLs (activities of daily living). A couple more months of therapy, some magical glasses to help correct my double vision, and plenty of sleep and a peaceful environment, I was not good-as-new. But I was alive and functional.

A triumph for modern medical science, indeed.

There are a lot of things I believe. I believe in the God who made me. I believe in the propitiatory work of His son Jesus Christ. I believe God answers prayers. I believe my wife loves me. I believe that there is hope for tomorrow. These things are not quantifiable – they are acts of faith.

But I also believe in gravity. I believe the Earth is a globe, and that it is in orbit around the Sun, and I believe that we visited our Moon by spacecraft made by the hands of men and women. These things are quantifiable – they do not require faith to apprehend. They are facts, and even if I did not believe them, they would still be true.

Which brings me back to the current predicament we find ourselves in, the pandemic. And suddenly “beliefs” are guiding our public health response. Suddenly our “beliefs” guide medical decisions, steer public policy, ignite hysterias over all manner of violations.

Maybe you do not “believe” in modern medical science like I do. But what we have seen has been nothing short of miraculous, a feat that naysayers declared impossible. But I know, from experience, that scientists and doctors work diligently and tirelessly to solve medical problems. To save lives. To make living better.

In less than a year multiple vaccines were developed. Now, these vaccines didn’t appear out of a vacuum. They have been under development for over a decade. With focus and political will and money, the vaccines were pushed to the top of the priority list. And now over 4 billion-with-a-B humans have been vaccinated. This should have been a big win for modern medicine.

But alas.

Many have chosen not to “believe” that a triumph was achieved. Many have become their own medical experts, without the hassle and time and money of actually getting an education, and pursued conspiracy fantasies, bizarre claims, even more bizarre therapies.

We are better than this. You can believe the Earth is flat. You can believe the Moon landing was a hoax. And you can believe the COVID-19 swab test is government mind control because it accesses the pineal gland. You can even pass Walgreen’s, CVS, the Walmart pharmacy, all of which will give you a vaccination for free, on the way to Tractor Supply to pick up some horse-worming drug Ivermectin (seriously, you can’t make this stuff up) for COVID therapy.

But in every case, you would be wrong.

God gave humans the ability to think, to solve problems, to fill the Earth and subdue it. Not only can we do this, but we are designed to, expected to, as it says here:

“I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous, your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?

Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods, bright with Eden’s dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world, repeated to us your Genesis-charge”
Psalms 8:3-7 (The Message)

Science and Faith are not at war with each other. Modern man has risen to the challenge and brought forth a solution to mitigate the damage from a horrible virus. If you aren’t of a faith perspective, maybe William Shakespeare will speak to you:

“What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!
how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god!”

We are an amazing race. The human race. We can do, and have done, so much to relieve the human condition.

So I will continue to push my “beliefs” on you, both of the eternal and mystical nature, which you can reject. And of the scientific and factual nature, which you cannot.

Thank God for modern medical science. (See what I did there?)

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