“Here you go, doctor.”
“The Leafs are 3 points up with a game in hand and….”
“No, no, the patient’s vital stats.”
“Pulse is 30, respirations 89 and her mutual funds are at 18.9%.”
“That’s better, now leeches, stat!”
“Leeches sir? Don’t you think that maggots would be more appropriate here?”
Amidst the seething whirls and whistles of high tech hospital lasers, fiber optics and designer bedpans, rests a simple aquarium crawling in leeches. Leeches have slithered back into our hospitals but now with a meaningful job to do. These slimy surgeons sit back in their little leechy surgeon’s lounge, smoke cigarettes and discuss recent cases, recent wives, and politics (they love their fellow senators).
Occasionally they perk right up, hopping up and down madly and wagging their tails with anticipation every time a plastic surgeon happens to walk by the aquarium. Plastic surgery is what they do best. A day in the OR for the leech means a succulent feast of blood. They utilize their 300 teeth and a unique ability to inject an anti-clotting agent in order to suck up undesired engorged blood from reattached fingertips, earlobes, lips and even tongues. If too much blood is left in these reattached pieces then the congestion may cause the tissue to die.
Leeches are even being used to treat the congested blood of hemorrhoids. (“Good news Bloggins, that massive barnacle in your behind is now fully decompressed, bad news is WE CAN’T FIND THE LEECH!”) The hospital actually buys the leeches, at about $8.00 each, from the Tax Department where they are bred en masse. The leech wrangler, a nurse, usually named Sarge, can get pretty “attached” to the little surgeons. She gives them names such as Robin Leech (prefers blue blood), F. Leech Bailey (according to my lawyer I should make no comment here) and Pamela Leech (definitely no comment).
After a 45minute fling in the OR however, the leech, now stuffed to its gills, is classified as biohazardous waste and is therefore sent to the hospital cafeteria. Not only do the leeches perform the surgery but they also provide their own anesthesia. As any schoolboy knows who, on a sunny afternoon, has substituted Math class for a day of searching out swamp frogs and crawfish, the leech attachment is pleasantly painless. Exiting the swamp covered in painless leeches, frog in one hand and blood dripping down the legs is a joy that only a boy of the male species would understand.
If the leech on your tongue idea hasn’t put goosebumps on your goosebumps yet, perhaps a doctor at the foot of your bed barking, “This patient needs a new dressing and throw some maggots on that wound will ya.” might convince you that you’re a guest of the Vince McMahon Memorial Hospital. In fact, these cuddly little botfly babies are also making a comeback in some hospitals. Prior to the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940’s, some 300 US hospitals used MDT or maggot debridement therapy (debridement meaning your wife leaves you should you ever incur this treatment.)
Any dead tissue sitting in a wound is a serious source of infection. To maggots, it’s a smorgasbord. Doctors noticed that soldiers’ wounds were cleaner and healed better when they were infested with maggots. These patients required less nursing care (nurses refused to go near them) and wounds healed better. As antibiotic resistance currently develops at an alarming rate, Maggie the Maggot is once again in vogue and actually being used in some hospitals to clean out bed sores, diabetic foot wounds, post-op wounds and skin ulcers.
The future may hold more interesting bio-therapy including slugs for depression, mussels for muscles, and hornets for impotence. But for now, don’t lose your maggots when you see you, doctor, reach for a leech.