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Point of View: Remember That Name

Wed, 03/24/2021 - 18:43

I had to say I wasn’t breastfeeding in order for my CVS questionnaire to be accepted, but, what the hell, I’ll say anything to get a shot.

The one I’m to have Sunday, at Mattituck’s CVS, will be my second, and then, two weeks hence, I presume I’ll be home free. Mary is to have hers at the same place the day after mine. Why they couldn’t do us both at the same time I don’t know, but we consider ourselves lucky to get them.

We’ll continue to wear masks and to wash our hands more often than we would have in the past, of course, wanting, as ever, to be good citizens.

Hand washing, as a matter of fact, came up at The Star’s Zoom meeting last Thursday, the speaker wondering if people were continuing to do it. And that reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut and Ignaz Semmelweis, of whom the writer spoke at a Southampton College graduation, one of its last — a speech so compelling that I ran after him after he gave it to ask if we couldn’t run it in the paper.

Ignaz Semmelweis, remember that name, I remember him saying as he began.

Why? Because Ignaz Semmelweis, a resident at Vienna’s General Hospital in the mid-1800s, was the first doctor to wash his hands, which led to a great reduction in puerperal (childbed) fever in the obstetrical clinic where he worked.

To suggest that germs transmitted disease and to suggest that hand washing helped rid us of them caused him to be laughed at by the medical profession of his time, opprobrium that may have contributed to a nervous breakdown and subsequently to his confinement in an asylum where he was beaten by the guards and died. Sic semper sapientes.

But take heart, Louis Pasteur was to come along some years later to prove Ignaz Semmelweis right. And so we evolve — ever so slowly, it seems at times.

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