Leech Spit and Maggot Food
It was promised years ago and, after many delays, they finally began construction of a new hospital for our area across the lake in Scratch Creek just over a year ago. The old hospital has faithfully served the Lake for over 80 years and actually was slated for replacement 15 years ago, but with provincial government changes and funding delays, they finally put the shovel in the ground in August 2014. Now that the new construction is nearing completion, you can almost taste the excitement that is in the air, and it is the old six-storey building that is the cause of the excitement. The story going around the lake is that there will be explosives involved with bringing the old Lake Country General Hospital down to ground level and that has a lot folks giggling with anticipation. There is another reason this explosive situation is causing the giggles and that is the fundraising lottery the hospital is holding. The lottery is called “Blast the Past” and for a mere five bucks Lake Country folks have a chance at pressing the button to blow up the old building. The unique lottery is a winner and seems to be immensely popular unlike one of the new departments in our new hospital which has the locals saying, “Yuck” between giggles and guffaws. Not only will there be a slew of new diagnostic and treatment equipment, but there is a “new” department that could have been seen around 3,500 years ago in an ancient Egyptian hospital. The Biotherapeutic department will be using medical grade leeches and disinfected maggots in various forms of treatment. In ancient times, your doctor would use leeches to treat headaches and other minor ailments. But what was old is new again, as the medical community has taken another look at what these critters have to offer in bio-treatment. I remember the cost of swimming in the creek where I grew up was a few minutes of de-leeching with tiny doses of salt or burning cigarettes. And, of course, the wounds where the leech bit would bleed for hours after removal. It was kind of a badge of honor and with bleedy legs under our cut-offs you could always tell who had been to the swimming hole. We knew that there was really nothing wrong with being leeched but it was still somewhat gross. There was one silver lining and that was leeches were good bait for fishing in the river. It is the bleeding caused by the leech that is of interest to medicine men these days, which is gross, but with over 30 different proteins leech saliva is causing a lot of excitement over some of the different applications. That’s right, doctors are salivating over leech spit! Leech spit has a lot going for it, not the least of which is its anti-clotting properties, which can have a positive effect on some heart patients and those with circulation problems. Leeches themselves are being used to drain blood from swollen faces, limbs and digits after surgery and they are said to numb pain and keep blood flowing. When leeches are used in treatments they are used one time only and then they and the bad blood they just sucked out of a patient are disposed of as biological waste. What a waste! They would still be good bait for fishing. Medical maggot use is not nearly as ancient as leeching but the benefits of maggot use were noticed during the United States Civil War. Wounded soldiers with maggoty wounds seemed to recover faster and better than patients with “clean” wounds and those with gangrene had a better chance with maggoty bandages to keep their limbs. It was discovered that maggots (fly larvae) eat dead flesh and only dead flesh and actually can do a better more precise job cleaning a wound of dead flesh than a surgeon. Maggots are being used in the treatment of ulcers, gangrene, skin cancer and burns and the treatment is anything but difficult with the process involving scooping a handful of disinfected maggots onto the wound and wrapping with a bandage to keep the crawly critters confined. A few days later the bandages and dead flesh fed maggots are removed from a clean and healing wound. Doctors and patients describe the only drawback to this treatment is the munching sound that a scoop of maggots makes while dining on dead skin…eeeyyuk! The “Blast the Past Lottery” will raise much-needed money for the new hospital, and it will be a sad moment when the old building finally falls in a heap of dust and debris. I think it is amazing the brand new healing centre will blend all the modern gizmo’s and gadgets with methods as old as the pyramids. I guess some things will never get old!