domingo, 23 de octubre de 2016

Happy Doctor's Day to all mexican doctors!

Perhaps it's a tad bit off-topic from the themes of my book series but as a physician it's always great to enjoy that one day of the year where my country commemorates the difficult tasks we do with the lack of medications, equipment and some of us literally risking our lives by working in crime-ridden areas. I also wish to pay my respects to the physician and odontology student that were brutally murdered out of the endless wave of senseless violence just a few weeks ago in Ecatepec, arguably the most dangerous municipality in the entire nation for overall crime (Acapulco still takes first place in homicide).

I probably write a little too much about medical themes in my series but characters overcoming devastating injury scenes have always attracted my interest. Arguably one of my favorite scenes from Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring is when Elrond heals Frodo as best as he can from whatever vile curse he suffered when he was stabbed by a Mordor sword and how quite possibly whatever remained of the curse expedited the effects of the spider's venom. I always felt a sort of admiration that one seemingly minor wound that didn't puncture any vital organs debilitated his health sufficiently to convince him to leave Middle-Earth at the end of Return of the King.

An Ominous Book contrasts two very different medics and despite a very brief interaction they both garner completely opposite reactions from Spaulding. The first medic we meet is Ciedel who is unusually tall, corpulent, keeps his black hair cut very short and seems to have a rather dry personality with a short temper. All we know about him is that he's an air mage that runs the infirmary of Tindenfarel and is vastly knowledgeable. None of my books ever delves about his personal life except for his long-lasting friendship with Trevilin. The scenes where Trevilin begins to recover from the third degree burn on his neck are never shown but I can imagine Ciedel's awkward position where an elf he has always known as a peculiar friend has now become his own patient. It's never easy treating someone you personally know because the emotional bond you share with that person can cloud your decisions yet it's clear that Ciedel manages to set his emotions aside to save Trevilin's life. I think Spaulding doesn't give Ciedel the credit he deserves and merely dislikes him in the beginning because his phantom beast managed to keep him trapped inside of Tindenfarel against his will. It isn't until Froylan confesses Ciedel's curse is the sole reason why the guard didn't bring him to National Palace for Salman's entertainment that Spaulding begins to harness a certain degree of respect for the medic. Ciedel's role as a recurring minor character brings him back in book 6. Brash, opinionated but still respectful of the Äimite guard, he is trusted with the impossible goal of healing the mentally unstable Tioja. Whether Ciedel has any noble lineage and actual combat abilities could be open for debate.

The second medic Dezan becomes a recurring secondary character. A member of the Naganim Clan of the central mountain plains and uncle of the current clan leader Lord Himijra, we know that he has noble blood relatives but we don't know if he was born a nobleelf. Always wearing his medium length black hair tucked inside of a hat, he seems like Ciedel's polar opposite: excessively polite to a point that Froylan constantly remarks he's a coward, pale, thin and wears small spectacles. Dezan reveals he is a water mage in the second book who can summon a Sarin. When Spaulding told Richard in the first book that some water mages have the misfortune of summoning beasts that are dependent on water Dezan proves that the defect of his water serpent doesn't hinder his abilities as a medic. Because the bodies of living animals are 70% water he has the powerful ability to study the organs of patients and even read their current thoughts. Little is known about his prior life except that Salman had his predecessor beheaded for some unknown motive and he became appointed as the king's personal medic, arguably the most important job position of a healthcare worker in the entire nation.

Due to this heightened position and the relative improbability that Salman as a healthy immortal would ever become ill one would believe he has the cushiest desk job in the nation. However the first book already hints the palace infirmary takes care of prominent citizens that suffer devastating injuries. Between badly injured Äimite guards, high ranking nobleelves and the occasional ranger Dezan seems to always be busy. His knowledge is put to the test both in the second book when he attempts experimental blood transfusions and in the fifth book for a reason I don't wish to spoil just yet. The fact that the nation doesn't have a Secretary of Health per se means any massive plague or medical emergency falls on his hands and he is partially responsible for sharing his knowledge with other medics in the nation. Utterly kind to the point of ridiculousness, he is a sufficiently capable mage to briefly impress Froylan. While Dezan rejected Lord Garain's offer to begin the initial Äimite training maybe he is capable of becoming a guard. Although in the unlikely case he begins the training I'm certain he would flunk on purpose.

Dezan nearly exclusively is seen dressed in his uniform but it's enjoyable to see him wearing Naganim heraldic travel robes during the endless journey in the third book. I wouldn't fully agree with everyone's opinion that he's a coward either. Dezan is one of the only characters in the series that ever dares contradict Froylan's opinions without any fear of reprisal. Either Froylan deeply respects him or everyone misjudges just how bold Dezan really is.

I love it how medics have different personality traits and want to have their opinions heard. Medicine isn't some kind of one size fits all cookbook and many sources of fiction (be it television, film, animation or books) seems to think everyone has a flat personality that follows medical advice like every disease was a cookie cutter. Medicine isn't in real life so blatantly obvious. While 90% of your cases will be common horses the remaining 10% will be zebras that fall into two categories: common diseases with a rare symptoms or a rare disease with common symptoms. Making things more difficult, the hospital you rotate as a med student can have a vastly opposing viewpoint on how you manage cases. Go to a tertiary super center to see breakthrough treatments of the rarest diseases and you will come out believing everything is a zebra. On the other hand expose yourself to a general hospital without all of the equipment or staff and get used to delegating anything out of your comfort zone to someone else.

Is it right that the Elf Kingdom seemingly has such advanced medicine in an otherwise primitive world? I think it is possible. Take away the diseases related to aging and have a society where everyone eats a healthy vegan diet without overt signs of an obesity epidemic and add the fact that you could very well practice medicine every day for 800 years in the prime of your health and it would be little surprising that you would dabble some of your free time on experimental medicine. Injuries, sepsis and varied surgical emergencies (varying between a vast array of pathologies that could happen to young people such as appendicitis or volvulus) would be the focus of your care. Immortal elves have no need to give birth to large amounts of children so the nation would expend larger amounts of resources in trade rather than education.

Could another cure for the life-threatening pathology that Trevilin contracts in the third book be discovered someday? I wouldn't be sure but I like thinking about countless scenarios that for time constraints cannot be explored in the novels.

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