Thursday, April 2, 2015

October 16th 2015 'Red Letter Day' for Selective Service System AND Medicine !

Two extraordinary anniversaries -----connected by two extraordinary individuals

On October 16th 1940, 75 years ago this year, America's system of registering for selective service began - a process that continues to this very day.

On that very same day, 75 years ago, the Age of Antibiotics began.

Unlikely as it may seem, both events are intimately united in the persons of patients Aaron Alston and Charles Aronson.

For these two received history's first ever injections of penicillin at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York on October 16 1940 ---- and then were immediately registered for selective service by a special team of hospital visiting registrars on that same day.

Both young men were suffering from subacute bacterial endocarditis.

The much dreaded "SBE" was then regarded as invariably fatal  --- the terminal disease that made Rheumatic Fever - not Polio - the leading killer of school age children throughout the western world.

Regardless of their likely fate in a few weeks or months, the selective service law was firm : both men must be registered ---- and so they were.

Born in 1910, Alston had been an almost Olympics class boxer and a winning track coach - he would have made an excellent leader of soldiers.

But neither he or the penicillin could fight off these strep bacteria and so he died in January 1941.

In his own quiet way, Aronson was also quite a fighter.

Born in 1912, he had already survived three frequently fatal childhood illnesses. He grew up to join the National Guard and hold down a full time job as a teletype operator at a newspaper.

And with the help of penicillin, he went on to survive not just one, but two bouts, of SBE. He then suffered a severe stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to speak.

But he bravely battled on for seven more years and then died in October 1951.

No important anniversaries should go un-noted, as these two anniversaries appear about to be, least of all when both anniversaries are united in the most extraordinary and unlikely of circumstances....

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