Macabre Dinner Party Game
Ok, so in early March my partner Paul received the dreaded Cancer diagnosis, which is always a shock. With him it was even more of a shock as he is one of the healthiest people I know - lives as a happy hermit in the bush in a cabin on the side of a mountain, eats all the vegies, does all the homesteading exercise, etc, etc. Then out of nowhere he turns yellow, is rushed to hospital with a blocked bile duct, and from there the blockage is diagnosed as a cancerous mass. The luck of the whole situation is that the cancer is Stage 0, which is the least amount of cancer you can have, huzzah. The difficult news is that cancer in the bile duct requires major, major surgery, a Whipple procedure, which means taking out the gall bladder, bile duct, part of the stomach and the head of the pancreas, as all of these organs are inextricably linked together. Then new connections are made with bits of the small intestine. It's one of the biggest surgeries around, ten hours. Anyway, the good news is he came through it brilliantly and his very good health and fitness and can-do attitude means he is making a good recovery, and he is back on his mountain again.
But here is the dinner party game I invented while he was in hospital - who sitting around this table would still be alive if the year was 1850? Paul would have thrived for the first 57 years of his life - he had never so much as had a broken bone - but right now he would be dead, not of cancer, but of a liver infection stemming from the blocked bile duct. A quick procedure inserting a stent and massive antibiotics via IV fixed that. Every day since late February has been a bonus day for him.
So I was at dinner with four other adults and four teenagers when I asked this question. One of the women would have died in childbirth as she had needed an emergency cesarean. Someone else required an emergency hysterectomy a few years ago to avoid bleeding to death. One of the guys had had a quadruple bypass two years ago. The other guy had had some kidney trouble but he thought he'd still be alive, had it been diagnosed correctly. He has just needed to go on a very low salt diet. I would still be alive but I have anemia that has only been resolved by going on the Pill, so I would have been one of those Victorian women languishing on the chaise longue.. Three of the four teenagers would be alive, the fourth, of course, would have died in childbirth with his mother. But also, in the here and now, vaccines and clean water may have saved the other teenagers from dying as children.
This is a macabre but interesting exercise. All of us around that table are healthy eaters and live fairly cleanly. None of us have 'lifestyle' diseases. The guy with the quadruple bypass is a skinny runner with what turned out to be really bad genes. But three out of five adults would have died without modern surgery, and one out of four kids. It is a sobering thought when contemplating the decline of healthcare. Seeing what went into Partner Paul's surgery was amazing. A team of about twenty were in the operating theatre and the ICU machines that went 'ping' to keep him alive were like magic. They can outsource a large number of bodily functions with machines during the recovery process. Paul had drainage bags and tubes coming in and out of him everywhere. But the resources that went into that kind of surgery are staggering, and would be available to very few of the world's population right now, let alone into the future..
So who wants to play? Would you still be alive right now if it were 1850 (let's assume we survived all the childhood diseases that the vaccines protect us from)?
1850 is merely a random number chosen because it is pre-reliable surgery, anaesthetics, antibiotics etc..