The Speculist: The (Coming) Age of Medical Capability


Live to see it.

« Notes on the Age of Capability | Main | Managing Scarcity »

The (Coming) Age of Medical Capability

Personal update: I'm hoping to check out of the hospital today. I've been in for the past two nights after the back and chest spasms that initially caused me to miss this week's show turned into a whole melange of seemingly unrelated symptoms. The final diagnosis is severe gastroenteritis of unknown cause. A CT scan showed my appendix as borderline, but my doctor (and a couple of his buds he conferred with) agree that it's not the culprit so it stays. Anyhow they've had me on an IV for two days and I've finally stopped vomiting -- plus the pain is mostly gone -- so I'm hoping to get out later today.

A couple of days in the hospital is a handy reminder that -- although we have made huge steps forward in basic medical care in recent years -- we still have a long way to go. One of my three wishes is for everyone on earth to be healthy. For that to truly happen, human illness needs to become a solved game. We have a long way to go before that's the case.

When the spasms started on Wednesday, I didn't think I was having a heart attack, but I couldn't rule it out. The urgent care doctor was able to rule it out, but he couldn't be very conclusive about what was happening. Most likely just a pulled muscle (so he gave me muscle relaxants) but it could be kidney stones, liver stones, gallstones -- nope, had that one out already -- an embolism, or something else. When I went to my regular doctor the next day, he started to suspect it was my appendix -- although pancreatic trouble or intestinal blockage couldn't be ruled out. He sent me to a surgeon who had me take the CT scan. We ended up with gastroenteritis two days later via a process of elimination -- and still have no clear idea whether the cause was viral, bacterial, or toxic.

And although I'm grateful for the excellent care I have received, other than being kept hydrated by the IV, the extent of my treatment here was some pain medication that made my nausea worse (although it was quite helpful for the pain) and some nausea medicine that didn't work at all. Basically, this thing just had to run its course, which it has apparently now more or less done.

Speaking of the IV, I think we're in an awkward place where intravenous delivery technology is concerned. The old gravity-powered drips were not nearly as reliable as the motorized ones we have today, but neither were they as loud. I recorded a few seconds of the one that has been my constant companion for the past 39 hours.

Try sleeping next to this.

We have a ways to go. But we'll get there.

UPDATE: I am reminded by one of the nurses that I was also receiving antibiotics via the IV, which might have hastened my recovery. But then, staying hydrated might have as well.

Also, it's now two hours since the doc said I could leave and I'm still lying here in PJs with a needle in my arm. Maybe the coming super-smart robot doctors will also help us out with some of these process issues.


In medical school, I had a professor who insisted that IV hydration was one of the greatest medical advances in history. Don't underrate it. I suppose you could make the argument that it's so simple that you could just do it yourself, but then who would rule out all of those other things you and your doctors were worried about? Maybe when we realize that a good night's sleep even while in the hospital is also very healing we will again have come a long way in medical advancement. But we are still waking people up at all hours of the night and putting loud machines in their rooms. But you can thank recent medical advancement that almost all new hospitals are built with single rooms only (I wonder if we can keep that one). These things will come faster the more the patients are in charge, and we risk backtracking when patients get marginalized to bureaucracies. Do you think Medicare cares if your IV pump is too loud for a good night's sleep? Nuff said.

Yeah, it does make for a certain degree of impatience, when we know that most diseases will be mere memories in decades - but then get reminded by our present vulnerabilities, whenever we have an allergy or a headache or worse.

Damn, can't wait for the miracles to happen. But I'll settle for P.B. to get better, for now.

Good point about sleep, MBA. I'll wager that one of the breakthroughs in the next decade will come from some novel way of simulating a good night's sleep - and then observing the fitness benefits.

Huh? I thought my filed of long term insurance was tough.

Post a comment

(Comments are moderated, and sometimes they take a while to appear. Thanks for waiting.)

Be a Speculist

Share your thoughts on the future with more than


Speculist readers. Write to us at:

(More details here.)



Powered by
Movable Type 3.2