Communion Of Dreams

You can never be too rich or too tall.*
May 27, 2014, 9:44 am
Filed under: Health, Humor, Science, Society | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The doctor looked up from her laptop, where the patient’s medical history was displayed. “Have you been doing those exercises we discussed?”

“Every day. Well, most days. I miss doing them sometimes if I’m traveling or if the kids are running late in the morning.”

“You do understand that they’re really important, right?” She looked her patient right in the eye. “Every. Single. Day.”

He looked down at his feet, dangling off of the exam table. “Sorry. I’ll try and do better.”

“I certainly hope so.  Lifespan is correlated with how tall you are. Short people just do not live as long.” She glanced at the laptop again. “Now, how about your meds & vitamin supplements? Taking those?”

The patient didn’t look up. “The vitamins, yes. Religiously. But the prescriptions … they’re *SO* expensive. My insurance company doesn’t cover them, because my shortness is considered a lifestyle choice.”

The doctor shook her head. “Yeah, I know. Medical science still considers height as being only partially due to genetics. But still, you really have to do your best. Take the meds. I’ll get you some free samples — the sales reps are always leaving that stuff for us.”

“Thanks.” He looked up. “Doc, what do you think of maybe the surgical option?”



“Does your insurance cover it?”

“Surprisingly, yes. Well, not here in the States.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’ve got a thing set-up with a clinic in India: for the whole six-month breaking & lengthening process, they cover it. Lots less expensive than here in the US.”

The doctor made a face. “I know they’re supposed to do good work … ”

“Doc, they can add two inches to my overall height.”

“Yes, but at what risk?”

“Not much. Not too different than having it done here.” His face brightened a bit. “I’m not getting any younger. You know what a difference it can make for dating and career. Just think … I could be almost six foot tall!”

The doctor sighed. “Look, I know this is hard. But stick with the stretching exercises and meds I’ve prescribed. Maybe start going to a rack therapist — they can usually add up to an inch in the course of a year.”

“Yeah, OK.”

“And watch your diet. Stay away from those short sugars. Proteins are long. Makes a difference.”


Jim Downey

*With apologies to Her Grace.



The more things change …

“Mr. Jones? This is Jane from Universal Replacements.”


“I was just calling to tell you that your new left ear will be ready for delivery on Friday. Which medical clinic will be doing the installation?”

“Acme Doctors over on … hey, wait, did you say LEFT ear?”

“That’s right, sir.”

“No, no, no, there’s been a mistake. I ordered a RIGHT ear when I sent in the cell sample.”

“I’m sorry sir, my records clearly indicate that you ordered a LEFT ear when you placed your order.”

“That can’t be right, I know I ordered a RIGHT ear! I don’t need a new LEFT ear!”

“I’m sorry, sir … ”


James Downey

Have a shot of oxygen.

There are a lot of ways we die. Massive trauma. Heart failure. Diseases of the organs which cause other body systems to shut down. But one of the more common mechanisms of death is lack of oxygen in the blood, what is called hypoxemia in the medical community. Without adequate oxygen in your blood, your brain and other organs start to die at the cellular level within minutes (in most conditions).

Hypoxemia can be caused by many different things, including a wide range of diseases and a variety of trauma. But if you can keep the blood oxygenated, you can buy time to treat the underlying cause. In the case of someone who has drowned, for example, this can be as simple as CPR. In other cases a heart-lung machine can keep someone alive while awaiting a transplant.

The problem is that sometimes it is impossible to buy that time. Maybe CPR isn’t viable. Maybe you’re too far from a hospital for other immediate treatments. Maybe it’d just take too long to get someone stable. In which case, this might work:

n a new study, published online today in ScienceTranslational Medicine, he and colleagues report the development of microparticles filled with oxygen gas that can be injected directly into the bloodstream. The particles quickly dissolve, releasing the gas and keeping organs, such as the brain, from suffocating.

* * *

The microparticles are tiny bubbles whose surfaces are membranes already used clinically to administer chemotherapy drugs and ultrasound dyes. But while those microparticles release their contents slowly, Kheir and his collaborators designed oxygen-containing particles that would dissolve as soon as they hit the bloodstream. They then tested the microparticles in rabbits breathing air low in oxygen. Within seconds of receiving the microbubbles, the levels of oxygen in the rabbits’ blood rose from a dangerously low 70% to nearly 100% saturation, the ideal level.

Promising. Very promising. From the abstract of the paper:

We have developed an injectable foam suspension containing self-assembling, lipid-based microparticles encapsulating a core of pure oxygen gas for intravenous injection. Prototype suspensions were manufactured to contain between 50 and 90 ml of oxygen gas per deciliter of suspension. Particle size was polydisperse, with a mean particle diameter between 2 and 4 μm. When mixed with human blood ex vivo, oxygen transfer from 70 volume % microparticles was complete within 4 s.

As noted, this is based on very proven technology: liposomes. These lipid-bilayer artificial “cells” are commonly used to deliver drugs in the bloodstream, and they are very well understood. This new application changes the liposome construction so that it dissolves much more quickly, allowing the oxygen to infuse the bloodstream almost instantly.

It is currently in animal trials. But based on how well the technology is understood, and the potential benefit it offers for a wide variety of life-saving applications, we could easily see this approved for human trials in the near term, and available for deployment within a few years.

And I just may need to find a way to work it into the next book

Jim Downey