Awake! December 22 1949
HAVE you lost an arm or a leg in an auto accident? Were some of your arteries or nerves shot away or shattered in the last war? Do cataracts blind your eyes? Have your teeth or hair fallen out? Has arthritis frozen your joints? Have a hole in your skull that needs plugging up? Need a new roof in your mouth? Or do you need a replacement for your lungs, kidneys or heart? If so, you will be interested to know that there are many shops around the country that are now in the business of supplying "spare parts" for the human body, both natural and artificial.
The best-known natural-replacement part is the cornea for the eye, the clear membrane that covers the iris of the eyeball. If you knock the window out of your house, or if the windshield of your automobile is scratched or cloudy, you get new glass to replace the old. Likewise, if "the windows of the eyes" are damaged or defective they can, in many instances, be replaced by transplanting good corneas from other people's eyes. But few people would sacrifice their sight in order that another might see, and even if they were willing to do so it might lead to double misery; for if the transfer should be unsuccessful, then two persons would be blind instead of one.
This led to the setting tip in 1945 of an "eye bank" to which people could will their eyes. At death the hospital is then free to remove such "willed" corneas before decay sets in, and preserve them until needed. It makes no difference whether the corneas are from those of a stillborn baby or from an old man of 70, as long as they are healthy. And not only the corneas are placed on ice in the "bank" but also the humor, the clear gelatinous substance that fills the eyeball It is bottled and put in a deep-freeze unit for use in eyes where blood clots form.
During the first two years after the eye bank was set up more than 600 corneas were donated- Specialists in grafting sprouted up fast, so that in three years, instead of 10 or 15, there were over 90 capable of performing this delicate surgery. Not all the 250,000 blind people in the country will be able to have their sight restored through transplanted corneas. If their optic nerves or retinas are damaged, or if they have poor muscle control, then replacement of the tiny front window will do no good. Statistics show that many transplantings are unsuccessful, and some cloud up from unknown reasons. So unless a person is practically blind, better to get along with poor sight than gamble with the possible loss of sight altogether.
Need a new jaw or a shinbone, or a vertebra for your broken back? You can now get these replacement parts and many others for the framework upon which you are hung. Heretofore, a person requiring a bone graft had to have a piece of bone taken from another part of his own body, or a friendly donor had to undergo an operation to supply the needed bone. Now all the surgeon has to do is to go down to the deep-freeze compartment in the hospital and select, a piece of frozen bone for the job at hand. In 1946 a couple of "bone lockers" were set up in New York hospitals where pieces of bones sealed in jars were kept at temperatures of 10 to 20 degrees below zero. Supplies for these surgical stockpiles were obtained from amputations and from healthy persons who met with sudden death.
The great success in bone-grafting is down to the fact that the replacement part is actually living cells that soon become an integral part of the body. One survey showed that out of 104 cases only 4 developed any complications. A 22-year-old girl, a victim of poliomyelitis, has her spine propped up with bones from nine different individuals. With more and more hospitals throughout the country setting up "bone banks", it will not be long before every community will have its own deep-freeze unit well stocked with a good supply of bones of every size and shape for the repair of local frames.
Other "Second-Hand" Parts
Cartilage is another name for the "gristle" found in different parts of the body. It is a tough, flexible substance resembling to some extent certain synthetic plastics. Most useful in plastic surgery on noses and ears, and for facial repair work, cartilage in times past was taken from the patient's own ribs or hipbone. But now regular cartilage banks are set up. The idea of storing this gristle is not new, but for a long time its storage was unsuccessful because it was hard stuff to preserve. Finally, it was learned that if kept in a refrigerator in a special salt solution which is changed weekly it could be kept for two years without spoiling. A few doctors report great success over a five-year period in which they performed 375 cartilage graftings.
Smaller, yet very important, "bank accounts" have been opened for human arteries and nerves. A good artery from an accident victim is placed as the lining in a metal tube made of vitalliura so that the ends of the artery extend beyond the tube. These are folded back to form eufits over the ends of the tube. The whole is then quick-frozen and kept until needed. In replacing a section the ends of the broken artery are simply slipped over the frozen cuffs, tied with silk, and the whole, tube and all, is sewed up in the body of the patient.
Nerve replacements are even more marvellous when one considers their delicate nature. If only severed, nerves can be "glued" together with special cement, but if a section of nerve is torn away completely, it must be replaced if paralysis is to be prevented. Freshly removed nerves are quick-frozen and later dehydrated in high vacuum and stored in sealed containers until needed. The Russians were among the first to remove such nerve fragments from battle casual ties and use them to patch up the wartorn legs and arms of soldiers. Another report tells of 28 peripheral nerve graftings, most of which were very successful. Of these one was outstanding indeed. It involved the connecting together of six nerves from a shoulder with 17 nerve endings in an arm, a feat unparalleled in surgery.
Skin-grafting for long a slow, tedious and not too efficient operation, has in recent times received a great impetus, thanks for the Brown Electro-Denna- tome. This instrument peels as much skin off in 5 minutes as formerly took 30 to 45 minutes. As a result many, many more victims of burns and accidents need not be cursed with scarfaces, but may have their faces and arms patched over with skin as good as new.
A line of research having far-reaching and intriguing possibilities has been that carried on by a number of individuals in an attempt to replace pulled-out teeth with others that will take root and grow. It has been suggested that if such a thing becomes possible then tooth banks could be set up similar to the other spare-part collections. One dentist in California, advancing along this line, replaced extracted molars with young wisdom tooth fauds and out of 35 cases he claims 33 were successful. The operation is limited to those between 12 and 19 years of age, for by that time their jaw formation is about set and their wisdom teeth are still in the budding stage.
Replacing lost blood, the body's most important fluid with other people's blood is now almost as common a practice as driving your car into a service station and having a quart of oil poured in. And, has crankcases are drained and refilled, so also is the blood, in some eases, completely changed in a person's body. Sometimes a newborn baby is cursed with the dread disease known as erytbroblastis, is jaundiced, and has a red blood cell count only half that of normal - all because the Ell factor of its blood is a different type from that of the mother. The procedure in such eases is to drain out the baby's poisoned blood and replace it with the opposite type.
As to the propriety of this procedure, or, for that matter, blood transfusions in general, much could be said. But the essential thing is that true Christians and believers in the Bible are commanded by Holy Scripture "to abstain from blood" (Acts 15:6-29; Leviticus 7:26, 27; 17:1042) Blood transfusions violate God's laws concerning the sanctity of blood. If such violate the Life-giving laws, then instead of being life-savers, blood transfusions are ultimate death- dealers, - See Awake! September 22, 1949, p, 25.
Awake! December 22 1949