Leech Spit and Mag­got Food

Moose Jaw Express.com - - Front Page -

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!

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