Modern medicine is truly amazing. Billions of lives have been saved because of it. With new breakthroughs in medicine comes a higher life expectancy than ever before and more treatments for illnesses than our ancestors could have dreamed of. This two-part blog series offers a look at some of the biggest lifesaving discoveries in history.
12. Polio Vaccination
Polio is one of the most debilitating illnesses in history. The year before the vaccine came out, over 55,000 polio cases were reported in the United States. Perhaps the most famous case was that of President Franklin D. Roosevelt who was left in a wheelchair after contracting the illness as a child. Fortunately, American virologist Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine in 1953, and since then, polio has been eliminated in most countries.
11. Artificial Pacemaker
In the past, those with a dysfunctioning pacemaker struggled with proper circulation, were at deadly risk for heart attacks, and had an extremely low life expectancy. With the invention of the artificial pacemaker, all that changed. The device was made to maintain a steady heart rate in order to keep blood flowing and circulation fresh throughout the body. The first version of the pacemaker was made in 1889 by John MacWilliam, a doctor who discovered the benefits of administering an electrical impulse to the human heart in order to apply proper pacing between beats. Since then, the pacemaker has only improved to be more convenient and effective for patients.
Angioplasty, a key leader in treating heart disease and other cardiac problems was discovered by Andreas Gruentzig, a young German doctor. Gruentzig was not the first to discover the science of eliminating blockages in the arteries around the heart, but his idea to add an inflatable component to the catheter led to the groundbreaking version of life-saving angioplasty today.
9. Insulin Shots
Diabetes is a serious medical condition that has caused far too many premature deaths. It wasn’t until 1921, when Frederick Banting discovered a way to use insulin from the pancreas to treat diabetes, that diabetics were able to live a somewhat normal life. Years later, insulin can now be manufactured in laboratories. Banting’s discovery of insulin has led to improved quality of life for millions.
8. Diphtheria and Tetanus Vaccine
Diptheria, often referred to as “the strangling angel,” crippled the lives of many, and tetanus made normal life impossible. The prevention of both these diseases didn’t get its start at a medical lab, like so many other vaccinations. It was discovered by a veterinarian who used his knowledge of animals to save the world from these two horrible viruses.
7. Oral Rehydration Therapy
In the past, millions died from dehydration caused by diarrhea each year, with children being especially vulnerable. Severe diarrhea can lead to a multitude of symptoms including severe dehydration, shock, coma, and death within hours. Thanks to Dr. David Nalin’s work in 1968, we have oral rehydration therapy (ORT) which is basically a solution of salt, sugar, and water administered orally to rehydrate dehydrated patients suffering from cholera and other diseases.
Check out our following blog post for the next six life-saving medical discoveries of history.
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