April 24, 2013

Modern Day Healthcare — Touching Lives


We often fail to appreciate the marvels of modern medicine. What would have been considered "miracles" once upon a time are now merely routine.


That magic combination of Ethambutol, isoniazid, pyrazinamide, and rifampicin worked for me just fine as it does for millions. No need to go for Second Line or Third Line therapies.
Ordinary housewives are living ordinary lives taking care of their kids while having been a patient with CML for over a decade. And they have no obvious external physical indicators of their being cancer patients. The miracle medicine is of course Glivec.
Patients are routinely cured from acute leukemia through the use of bone marrow transplants.
Former U.S. Congresswoman from Aizona Gabby Giffords was shot point blank and had a bullet pass through her brain but modern trauma care including craniotomy saved her life.
Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS in his early 20s and doctors told him that he would probably live for another year or two. He continues to live and he is now a septuagenarian.

Thousands of cardiac and thoracic surgeries are performed routinely every year with minimally invasive techniques which ensures that the patient returns to a normal life that lasts decades.
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton underwent a quadruple heat bypass surgery in 2004 and therefore returned to a normal life. Then he had another procedure in 2012 where two stents were placed in one of his coronary arteries. He continues to lead a normal life. Even sicker heart patients such as Dick Cheney continue to live with heart transplants.
Cardiac and thoracic surgeons indeed have an extensive set of medical procedures available to them to repair cardiac arteries.
Kidney transplants from living donors are standard procedures for patients with end stage renal disease and live for decades thereafter.
Hip replacement surgeries are commonplace and unremarkable and yet they improve the quality of life of patients for decades. There are many other cutting edge treatments available with Apollo Hospitals, one of the largest healthcare groups in Asia.
The availability of many anti-retroviral medicines has made HIV-AIDS a manageable disease and no longer a certain death sentence.
These are but the slightest taste of the present state of the art in modern medical science.
 On The Horizon
The future might bring routine sequencing of every patient’s genome in the quest for “precision medicine." As we sequence more of our genomes and generate terabytes of data, technologies such as the IBM Watson will help analyze that data. Here's one instance of trying to teach Oncology to Watson. Of course, Watson could as well be "trained" to be a cardiologist. Amounts of data that need to be crunched in healthcare to understand the human body and to offer better treatment for diseases is increasing but happily, the cost of computing power is ever decreasing.
Gene Therapies will become better understood and be used more in the future. There are many targeted cancer therapies already in use.
Of course, challenges remain for modern medical science. 1) People still die; so, there's no cure to death as of now. But researchers are working on it. 2) Common cold still exists. 3) Men still go bald and there's no definite treatment for it. 4) That uncomfortable problem of hemorrhoids still refuses to yield to modern medical science.
Ray Kurzweil's predictions about our transhuman future are well known. People including Kurzweil have also chosen to put faith in cryonics, the idea of preserving one's whole body or just the brain upon one's death in the hope that at some point in the future, medical technologies will advance to a level so that whatever may have killed the person earlier will be curable in the future and the person can be "revived."
So book your tank at a cryonics company if you want to be alive 1,000 years from now. Kurzweil predicts "technological singularity" to occur around 2045. Of course, not everyone buys into his idea.

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