Science and Technology Saves Lives

Scientists took on Washington today – marching through the national mall on Earth Day – in a non-partisan homage to a systematic study of structure and behavior of the physical and natural world. (Disclaimer: this post has not been peer-reviewed.)

Science and technology are not mere opinions. Beliefs and facts are not synonymous. Science and technology save lives.

Take the relatively recent specialty of neonatology for example. Apparently physicians once found it much sexier to perform daring surgeries or cure cancer than coax a tiny baby to breathe. Did you know that in the recent past, preemies were placed in incubators and heralded as sideshow fodder? Priorities people!

But when Patrick Bouvier Kennedy was born in 1963 and succumbed to respiratory distress, priorities changed. Right quick. Born at 35 weeks, a late-term preemie who’d likely have only the briefest of NICU stints today, the first child born to a sitting U.S. president since 1893 spurred the burgeoning field of neonatology after his death at less than two days old.

According to a study cited by Dr. Adam Wolfberg (both a perinatologist and preemie dad), the mortality rate for infants born at 28 weeks fell from 70 percent in 1958-1968, to 10 percent by 1988.

Thank you, science.

I’ve called Search and Destroy the Million Dollar Miracle Muppets because of the odds they overcame as 27-weeker wimpy white boys. Their success benefited by all the 2010 new millennial medical advances – and the science and technologic knowledge employed by their medical team. (Alas, the health of babies in the United States took a step backward in 2016 when the nation’s preterm birth rate worsened for the first time in eight years.)

Search and Destroy were born 13 weeks too soon (because who needs a third trimester when you have technology). I did not get to meet my sons the day they were born. A team of doctors immediately surrounded them, gently placing them in computerized incubators. A team of nurses hooked them up to sensors – the critical results to be displayed on the monitors above their isolettes.

Technology literally kept them alive from their first breath of air.

My children were swaddled in wires and their first lullabies were the beeping alarms of computerized monitors. But it was the data delivered from those wires that reassured me that their hearts continued to beat and they remembered to breathe. In. Out. Repeatedly. Forever. (Granted, this did not occur without the occasional reminder.)

The nascent neonatology field is the marriage of recent technology and medical research. The technology is what assisted my children’s fight for life. Remember that next time someone calls you a tech nerd.

No science has 100% efficacy except death. But it is the height of hubris to think ourselves so self-aggrandized that we begin to scoff at proven STEM discoveries simply because “one should question it.”

I am not a scientist. I do not claim to be an expert. But Search and Destroy are alive because of science and technology. And this morning Destroy looked at me and stated simply, “It’s ok, Mom. I’m going to be a scientist when I grow up.”

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Filed under Current Events, Prematurity

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