Archive for October 24th, 2021

When Pain Teaches Wisdom: Mysterious Illnesses, etc.

October 24, 2021

I have had chronic illness myself, as a child, starting in Africa, long ago. For years. Never explained, although the Pasteur Institute in Dakar (!) at the time, looked at it. I slowly recovered, overall… So I know how devastating and isolating chronic illness can be… It’s isolating when the illness is mysterious, as was my case… Which started after accidentally drinking (Tropical Africa) river water…

Thus my heart felt condolences to all chronic sufferers and their families.

Mysterious chronic illness helps to become wiser, though… As the frailty, and incommunicability, of human existence is laid bare… plenty to meditate about. Little pleasures even more crucial, and how to confine the happiness of life into learning to love their blossoms.

It may be no accident that the most popular and arguably most effective presidents, FDR and JFK, suffered from chronic illnesses. But by suffering and learning to tame it, and learning to appreciate the little pleasures, the frailty of the human condition, they had plenty of perspective and time to appreciate how well life should be appreciated in full, and what, among the issues and emotions, were the most significant ones.

Pain is a teacher. We may do not like it, and in general we will hate it, but we learn from it as we cannot learn from anything else.

Human medicine should be more aware that health care is also psychological pain care: telling physiologically suffering patients that they imagine their physical pain should be viewed as abusive, bad medical practice.

There are medical experts, indeed, and we need them, of course. They do a fantastic job in their (tiny) areas of expertise. However, part of their training should be the humility of pathetically small knowledge facing the unknown ocean of unfathomable knowledge.

What’s the country with the most and best paid professional COVID relevant experts? The USA. What is the country with the largest official number of dead COVID patients? The USA. Correlation is not causation, but most often, especially if too blatant, intimation…

***

The success of the twenty vaccines spectacularly financed by Trump is something else entirely different, which has mostly to do with a combination of science, greed (in the good sense), private and public financing, for-profit adventurism, etc. Trump “gave” more than four billion dollars to Moderna alone. Moderna, the expert company for mRNA vaccination needed the cash, made the best vaccine and now Bin Biden wants to divulge Moderna tech to the world (!!!).

Those who decided to fund the companies or institutes (in the case of Russia and China). Private investors, Trump, Putin and xi have to be lauded, and recognized as expert… science funders. The European Union is to be vilified. That Trump financed European vaccines Europeans didn’t themselves finance is grotesque. Even more so Boris Johnson financing a French vaccine that neither France or the EU financed.

Moderna has the best COVID vaccine. It is triumph of mRNA vaccine tech, in particular, a tech launched in France in the 1990s, and which failed then… So this is expertise and expertise which worked beyond all expectations… But it has nothing to do with the psychological approach to mysterious illnesses of traditional doctors…

As mRNA tech should allow to transform human beings for at least one million man-made proteins… Many mysterious diseases are going to be elucidated soon. But this has nothing to do with traditional medicine and its all too frequent ill-justified arrogance. Notice also that daring financing by bold investors is even more crucial than “expertise”, because, in fundamental research, expertise is created… Not pre-existent.

There is also a more general context at play here: adventurism pays unexpected dividends, just as pain does, including the pain adventurism can bring… Not forgetting the pain some suffer from fear and jealousy when early biotech investors become billionaires because they gave decades of their lives, learning, studying and working mRNA and the like.

Patrice Ayme

P/S: The initial part of the essay above was a comment (unpublished) to the New York Times’ excellent work by ROSS DOUTHAT,

How I Became a Sick Person. Oct. 23, 2021

“The long-term form of Covid-19 has something in common with other forms of chronic illness — strange and varied symptoms, lasting debilitation, no certain treatment. But unlike other such conditions, which tend to creep up on society, long-haul Covid arrived suddenly, creating a large pool of sufferers in a short period of time and afflicting frontline medical workers and younger patients in large numbers.

This created a sense of immediacy and urgency… among a population — doctors, especially — that’s often skeptical of difficult patients and mystery illnesses.

But already with long Covid you can see the usual structure of chronic-illness controversies reasserting itself. Recent articles in The Atlantic and The New Yorker cover the emerging lines of debate, which pit patient advocates urgently seeking treatment against scientists following cautious research protocols…

Meanwhile, among friends naturally inclined to skepticism, I can see the initial sympathy inspired by long Covid giving way to the doubtfulness that hangs around chronic fatigue syndrome, or fibromyalgia, or the chronic form of Lyme disease…

I understand these ideas because for a long time, despite close relationships with people who suffered from chronic illness, I shared some of them. Most notably, I shared a common idea of what chronic illness is like — imagining a kind of Victorian fainting-couch experience, a hyperactive fixation on tingles and twinges, an exaggerated version of the fatigue that comes after you’ve stayed up with a newborn or the aches you feel after exercising for the first time in months.

Then I got sick myself.”

The rest of the story, very detailed, and although a cliffhanger, is pretty harrowing…


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