Tuesday, June 13th, 2017
Hemoglobin is a wonderful little protein in your blood that binds to oxygen in your lungs and then delivers that oxygen to the rest of your body. If you have insufficient hemoglobin in your blood, then you've got insufficient oxygen in the rest of your body, including (eventually) your brain. Oxygen deprivation (hypoxia) in general is something best avoided.
One common but unfortunate side effect of both cancer and its treatment (chemotherapy) is that they can drive down your hemoglobin. When that happens, your body slows down to a sluggish halt and the thought quickly surfaces that "something isn't right here." The remedy for low hemoglobin is easy enough: a blood transfusion -- fresh blood infused with normal volumes of hemoglobin. Thus I find myself back at JH today, with Alison by my side of course, to receive a couple of pints of new blood.
Back in middle school, we all learned about blood typing and matching -- who can give to whom. I remember none of it except for the fact that there is some blood type known as the "Universal Donor" and another that is the "Universal Recipient." I'm drawing a blank on everything else and I haven't been ambitious enough to look it up.
One thing that I have learned about is antibodies. If you think of "body" as meaning "foreign body", then the definition of an antibody makes sense: they seek out and bind to foreign bodies (a.k.a. antigens) so that other parts of your immune system can sweep them up and purge them from your body. As with anything in your body, sometimes things can go awry. In the case of antibodies, for example, they can mistakenly identify a native body as foreign which leads to good cells being purged. In my case, my blood contains antibodies that seek out native bodies that occur normally in the blood of most (but not all) people's blood. So, in order for me to receive a transfusion of blood without my own antibodies attacking the new blood, the blood bank needs to track down blood that does not contain the native bodies in question. That often takes a very long time (8-9 hours), yielding in turn a lot of thumb twiddling here at the infusion center.
The Wright Brothers
As my body slowed down more and more earlier this year and before I knew why, I took the opportunity to read a couple of dozen books. Here's one of them.
The Wright Brothers is a recent book by David McCullough, the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for his books Truman and John Adams. Before I read this book, I knew only the very basics about the Wright brothers:
(1) "Widely considered to have invented..." does a disservice to the Wrights. Although various other people were trying to invent a flying machine at the same time, none of them was remotely close to success. The Wrights were clearly and unambiguously the thought leaders in the mechanics of avian flight and how they could be (and were) successfully applied to manned flight.
(2) The Wrights did spend time in Kitty Hawk in order to take advantage of the plentiful winds and soft sand, but their base of operations and invention was definitely in their home town of Dayton. For the tourism bureaus, Dayton deserves the credit and Kitty Hawk should get honorable mention.
(3) Their mother died young and father was a traveling preacher. Of the five surviving siblings (twins died in infancy) Wilbur, Orville and their sister Katharine became very close. When the brothers were away (which was often), Katherine managed both the household and the family bicycle business.
(4) The Wrights offered their invention for sale to the United States government but received little more than a courtesy reply. That's because the Smithsonian was funding a similar machine of their own being developed by Samuel Langley (it never worked). So, they took their business overseas to the French, first and foremost, but also the Germans and Italians. They were warmly welcomed there.
(5) Neither brother ever married. Wilbur died from typhoid fever at the age of 45. Orville lived until the age of 76. Although both brothers accumulated moderate wealth in their lifetimes (Orville in particular) from their invention and various patents, neither amassed anything close to the enormous fortunes of the railroad barons of the era.
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