Saturday, May 14, 2011

Congratulations! You've had a disease named after you!

"Hey, Dad, guess what? I know how to do the Heimlich Maneuver."

Those were my eleven-year-old daughter's first words as she climbed into our filthy minivan after having completed a six-hour babysitting training session.

"Good for you. Can you do it on kids and adults?" I was curious as to any additional value the fifty-five dollar fee may have provided.

"Maybe, but I'm not sure. I know I can do it on a baby. Plus I  can change a diaper. When can I babysit, dad?  I want to practice all the stuff I've learned, like treating bee stings, broken bones, bloody cuts and allergic reactions."

"Umm, I'm not sure. And let's hope you never have to deal with any of that stuff, let alone all of it. I don't think parents wants to come home to find their kid bloody, swollen and in an arm sling."

She looked at me. "I could show them a big chunk of meat that their kid heaved up." And without pausing, she added, "They changed the name to 'abdominal thrusts.' That guy Heimlich didn't want his name associated with someone choking."

After I briefly pondered that statement's accuracy, my mind drifted to other biological terms which bear the discoverers' monikers. For instance, when I spoke of donating blood in this post, I mentioned a lengthy questionnaire which broaches the subject of exposure to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Who were these people named Creutzfeldt and Jakob? Were they a couple of dudes who slowly went insane after consuming bovine gray matter over a couple of Milwaukee's Bests, or were they lab-coat-wearing techies who discovered the cause of Mad Cow Disease and high-fived over a test tube full of brown, sludgy nastiness?

Thanks to the indisputable accuracy of Wikipedia, I learned that neither theory holds water, as the disease was first described by German neurologist Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt in 1920 and shortly afterwards by Alfons Maria Jakob, giving it the name Creutzfeldt-Jakob. 

I'm not sure I'd want my name forever linked to an insipid brain-eating disorder, but hey, it is good to get your name out there. Some diseases even use a possessive tense, as if it's the property of someone, like Alzheimer's or Hodgkin's. 

If a person is unfortunate enough to contract one of these terrible illnesses, they shouldn't be further penalized: "I'm terribly sorry, ma'am, but the tests indicate that you have Parkinson's Syndrome, so we'll begin treatment immediately after Dr. Parkinson receives his royalty payment."

I've decided I'd much rather be passively tied to a body part, like Fallopian tubes, which were named after Italian anatomist, Gabriele Fallopio. Kind of cool when your name gets an "ian" at the end, like "Johnsonian" or "Kardashianian."

From a less formal standpoint, some anatomical parts, such as "Adam's Apple" are able to exist on a casual, first name basis. And "Hernia" sounds like it could be one of my aunts from North Dakota.

I'm not sure how you'd go about getting a disease or body part named after you at this point, since it appears everything has been covered. And since my name is Tim, if it weren't for a few years and some bad luck, things would be different.

It would be known as the "T Spot."

1 comment :

  1. What about those poor diseases that get named after unscrupulous individuals?

    For example, the disorder, Hallervorden-Spatz syndrome, which I studied for my graduate degree, was named after the two doctors, Julius Hallervorden and Hugo Spatz, who first described it. Their 'fortunate' connection to the Nazi regime allowed them to decide which patients were 'unfit' to live...and, since they won't be needing their brains any longer why not let us study them?!

    After we discovered the location of the causative gene the first thing we did was to propose renaming it to something more innocuous, NBIA1, so as to remove the objectionable eponym.

    If interested, you can read more about it here:

    Best, Todd