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Good Morning Doctor! - Chapter 10

The Little Vial

Toward the end of our senior year, our class was called into the old amphitheater to hear a special lecture. The subject and the identity of the speaker had not been revealed. Finally the door by the speaker's table opened and in walked Dr. Middleton.

In his hand he held a little vial filled with some sort of fluid. He carried it with greatest care as though it were very precious.

Holding the vial up before us he began, "My friends, I have here a weapon which you fortunate gentlemen may carry with you after you leave this University; a weapon with which you may successfully wage war against one of mankind's greatest scourges. It is a happy coincidence which gives this to you as you embark on your professional careers. Gentlemen," his voice trembled, "with the fluid in this vial you shall conquer diphtheria!"

There was a sigh in the big room. Nobody moved. We were a part of one of the most dramatic chapters in medical history!

"This," Dr. Middleton pointed to the vial, "is diphtheria antitoxin. In Europe at this moment this antitoxin is being used successfully. This very vial full was brought over only a few days ago by Dr. Littig, and it is by his kindness that we have it here now."

Then he told us how the antitoxin had been discovered, how it was being produced, and how efficiently it was cutting the diphtheria death rate.

"Think, men, what this may mean. Think of the people who may not only have their lives saved but who may be spared the suffering which diphtheria brings for this antitoxin can prevent as well as cure the disease. And if diphtheria has yielded to the magic of science, think what other diseases may also be conquered."

"Perhaps some day, through the efforts of our laboratory men, with their conscientious and everlasting diligence, there may be found an antitoxin or a vaccine which will be effective in preventing and perhaps curing typhoid fever which is now all too widespread; and some day the same kind of research may give us a remedy for scarlet fever, that other scourge of childhood."

A marvelous vision and truly a prophecy! For most of us have lived long enough to see his dreams come true.

That lecture, a climax to our student experiences, made such a lasting impression on all of us that seldom have I talked, even in these later years, with any one of my classmates without finding the conversation inevitably turning to that lecture.

When Dr. Middleton died, no so many years later, a victim of one of the hazards of surgery--blood poisoning--he was mourned not only as a great doctor but also as a great man. It might well have been said of him as Mark Anthony said of Brutus,

This was the noblest Roman of them all; ... His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, "This was a man!"

  Version: World Wide Web Edition Copyright 1995 by Richard Rathe
  Created: October 1, 1995   Modified: July 5, 1999

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