The First Line of Defence

Einstein said   “Our sense of wonder is our sense of God”
I couldn’t agree more.  I love the sense of wonder, as it gives me a feeling of  my horizons being extended.

I had this feeling, believe it or not, while reading and researching the benefits of
Coenzyme Q 10  – a component that is important for the building up of the immune system, which is vital for good health.  This led me to discover my lymphatic and immune systems.  Wonder systems in their own right !

Boring you might say, but oh no, not when it is written in terms of engagement and the concepts of warfare.
Now imagine a city on a hill, of whom the mayor, the honourable Mrs Good-loo King,  who makes all decision in all matters, is the chief citizen.  This city has its very own personal defence system to keep it clean and disease free and guard against any would be malicious enemies.

No, the enemies are not invading Turks, Arabs, Romans or Russians.   The enemies are the invisible inhabitants of an invisible world, the world of bacteria, virus, and fungi – pathogens and antigens !  And a sneaky bunch they are too.  Not to be sniffed at, as they can be skilfully deceptive to gain access to my city, and can cause major infection.

lymph polixw
To my delight I came to realise that, in my city’s arsenal, the first line of  defence were a troop of assassination killers – that asked no questions, hear no lies, and shoot from the hip, purposely intending to kill and to destroy any would be invader that meant harmful destruction,  – the Phagocytes ! (white blood cells)  And after the warring attack on my cells are over, they call in the Macrophages and Monocytes.  “These are large cells that act as killer scavengers, with the unique ability to engulf and digest foreign micro organism and antigens “  – to clean up the mess left behind.   I love the Phagocytes !

As amazing as the lymphocytes are, is the manner in which they operate.  It took a little time for me to wrap my mind around the workings of the immune system.  This with the help of the book I read : The Miracle Nutrient Coenzyme Q10  written by Emile G. Bliznakov M.C. and Gerald L. Hunt.   Publisher Bantam Books.
“The immune system is able to distinguish between “self” and “nonself” and it will act accordingly.  It also has a memory for ‘faces’ individual chemical markers that are displayed by foreign proteins.     The immune intelligence remembers  past invaders and reacts.”
How amazing is that !!

These Lymphocytes, are the ground troops that carry out the work of surveillance, identifying the enemy then ruthlessly kill and destroy foreigners, and are but a part of a network of vessels similar to the blood vessels.  The blood vessels are the carriers of nutrients and life to all my cells.

No small regimental army this !  Highly operational,  and there are other strategically positioned outposts in my city to detect an enemy invasion e.g. the tonsil,s  the appendix,  the clumps of lymphoid tissue in the small intestine known as Peyer’s patches.

lymphatic_system

“The lymphatic system itself is the line of supply,” (crucial in warfare), “throughout the immune network.  The whole system is lined by lymph nodes, which are small bean-shaped structures spread throughout the body. Strings of lymph nodes can be found in  the groin, abdomen, armpits and neck.      Lymph nodes act as depositories for cells of the immune system and also as centres for disposing of the remains of dead (or deceased) micro organisms.”

Highly strategically organised and efficient warfare with a sweeping surveillance with swift action to destroy an incoming enemy !
And strangely there is no manual to follow, no protocol to adhere to, no General in charge to issues orders when attacked, it is as if they exist only to do their work on their own accord.   When they get triggered, war happens !
Amazing, amazing the human body !

I wonder, if Christians were as quick to react to the incoming wrongs and injustices in our societies, if there would be less chaos and despair in the world ?   We too may be, the first line of defence, in a world where oppression, crime and lies seem to be the order of the day.   Of course we can’t kill, but we can expose them for what they are, and nullify the damage they cause.
However I digress.

Being stressed-out is the malady of our times, – in a world where everything has been innovated and invented to make our lives better, easier and faster !  But too much stress is not a friend of our immune system !  We would be wise to make time to slow down a little and bring a good dollop of fun, and mindful reflection, to balance our overworked minds.
Malnutrition, often undetected, is another malady.  I believe supplements can be helpful, but in all I have read, many if not most recommend that we get our nutrients, vitamins and minerals from God-made food like fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts.
For good health, good nutrition is our first line of defence, and starts with the natural foods we eat.

And for that reason Mayor Good-loo King will need to do a little more research to make the best decisions for the health and well being of her city !

This snapshot of information, done tongue in cheek,  has done no justice whatsoever to the complicated work of the lymphatic system.  And though I do not fully comprehend it all,  my sense of wonder was rekindled as I discovered my brave lymphatic and immune systems – and the goodness of God in His amazing design of the human body.

O LORD, how manifold are your works !  Psalm 104:24

Human body systems

 

But for now, excuse me, as I go and top up  my plate with a whole lot more broccoli, drizzled with just an itsy-bit of lemon butter and a sprinkle of black pepper.

plate of broccoli

Remember to love your Phagocytes, and eat your greens !

   You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden  Matthew 5:14

 

From Menial to Magnificent

 

skeleton

Hoarding is one thing.   That is easy.  Cleaning out is another,  not an easy thing for me.   But the day comes when the small menial tasks need to be done.  And the Bible says  do not despise the day of small things.

I have been labelled a hoarder, and although I don’t totally agree with that,  well at best then, a recovering hoarder ?   I  have yet a long way to go.   How some people can ruthlessly throw out their sort-after possessions beats me.   I don’t easily throw things away. This may just be a throw-back from my frugal upbringing.  I have learnt overtime  though, to surreptitiously absorb excess into my domain.  Like any good South African taxi driver will say  …  there is always room for one more !!

Taxi

I am learning to de-clutter, but not so much with my papers on words and writings.    And come the first month of the year I seem to have an automatic resolve to go through all my “papers and writings” – these precious snippets of wisdom that I have collected.  I usually make little piles of the favourites and then keep them in a special box – for next year’s clean out !  It’s hard for me to discard “old friends”.

I am so glad I do this, for if I had to be ruthless with my wisdom collection I would never have re-discovered the amazing snippets taken from Philip Yancey’s book on Dr Paul Brand, and his insight on the power of the blood, which I had re-written on a piece of notepaper and kept !

The book :  In the Likeness of God.  The Dr Paul Brand Tribute Edition of  Fearfully and Wonderfully Made  and  In His Image.   ISBN 0-310-25905-3 Zondervan

Read and marvel with me, as he describes the red blood that runs through all our veins.

Blood cells

But first, allow me to introduce you to Dr Brand, then you will have an appreciation of his insight and his writing.
And incidentally, notice how Philip Yancey describes, in the Preface of the book, how he had learned about Dr Paul Brand in the first place !

…”my wife cleaned out the closet of a medical-supply house and in the process stumbles across an intriguing essay he had written on “The Gift of Pain”

And further on in the book he writes …

“….  I can imagine God taking great delight in steering me to Dr Brand
(through my wife’s serendipitous discovery of his essay in a closet, of course) at a critical time in my spiritual journey.

pink feather duster

Aha !!! – So there is value in hoarding … and, value too in cleaning out, and good housekeeping,  that can take us from the menial to the magnificent !  Discoveries and re-discoveries, as I had just made.

Meet Dr Paul Brand, both a good and great man…. but allow Mr Yancey to express in his own words from the book :

” An orthopedic surgeon, Dr Brand had spent most of his medical career in India, where he made a dramatic discovery about leprosy, one of the oldest and most feared diseases.  Careful research convinced him that the terrible manifestations of the cruel disease – missing toes and fingers, blindness, ulcers, facial deformities – all trace back to the single cause of painlessness.  Leprosy silences nerve cells, and as a result its victims unwittingly destroy themselves, bit by bit, because they cannot feel pain.  When he moved to a high-tech laboratory in the United States, he applied what he had learned about painlessness to other diseases, such as diabetes, thus helping to prevent tens of thousands of amputations each year”  ……..

“… The conversations that stand out sharpest to me now are those in which he recalled individual patients, “nobodies” on whom he had lavished medical attention.  When he began his pioneering work, he was the only orthopedic surgeon in the world working among fifteen million victims of leprosy.  He and Margaret (his wife) performed several dozen surgical procedures on some of these patients, restoring rigid claws into usable hands through innovative tendon transfers, remaking feet, forestalling blindness, transplanting eyebrow, fashioning new noses.
He told me of his patients’ family histories, the awful rejection they had experience as the disease presented itself, the trial-and-error treatments of doctor and patient experimenting together.   Almost always his eyes would moisten and he would wipe away tears as he remembered their suffering.   To him these, among the most neglected people on earth, were not nobodies, but people made in the image of God,and he devoted his life to try to honour that image.”

“Most impressive to me, the wisest and most brilliant man I have ever met devoted much of his life to some of the lowest people on the planet : members of the Untouchable cast in India afflicted with leprosy.”…….

“Dr Brand described his writing journey this way : “In a sense we doctors are like employees at the complaint desk of a large department store.   We tend to get a biased view of the quality of the product when we hear about its aches and pains all day.   In this little manuscript, which I set aside long ago,
I tried instead to pause and wonder at what God made, the human body. ” ...

Indeed Philip Yancey’s book captures, apart from the life and insights of Dr Paul Brand,  also the comparison of the human body to that of the Body of Christ.

The notes that I had taken  from the book were on the chapter on the blood.  I will try to compose the snippets in such a way that will show the magnificence of the life-giving blood that runs unceremoniously through our veins every moment of the day, every moment of our lives.

Just to elaborate a little,  an incident occurred  at the Connaught Hospital where a young beautiful accident victim was wheeled into his ward. Dr Brand at first could not feel a pulse, and thought she was dead.  Then he witnessed how she came back to life as new blood was administered to her,  as the blood began to flow through her veins.

”  That young woman entered my life for only an hour or so, but the experience left me utterly changed.   I had seen a miracle : a corpse resurrected, the creation of Eve when breath entered into and animated her body.  If medicine,   if blood  could do this… “

This incident change the course of Dr Brand’s life.

The following  extracts are what brought me to the brink of astonishment, as I read about the miracle and power of blood.

” For most of us, the organ of blood, if one can think of this fluid mass as an organ, comes to consciousness mainly when we begin to lose it.  Then, the sight of it in tinted urine, a nosebleed, or a weeping wound provokes alarm.   We miss the dramatic sense of blood’s power that I saw demonstrated in the Connaught patient – the power that sustains our lives at every moment   ……… ”

” …..  perhaps a technological metaphor would serve best today.
Imagine an enormous tube snaking southward from Canada through the Amazon delta, plunging into oceans  only to surface at every inhabited island  …… ”

” Such a pipeline exists inside each one of us, servicing not six billion but one hundred trillion cells in the human body.   An endless supply of oxygen, amino acids, nitrogen, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sugars, lipids, cholesterol, and hormones surges past our cells, carried on blood cell rafts or suspended in the fluid.   Each cell has special withdrawal privileges to gather the resources needed to fuel a tiny engine for its complex chemical reactions.
In addition, that same pipeline ferries away refuse, exhaust gasses, and worn-out chemicals.   In the interest of economical transport, the body dissolves its vital substances into a liquid (much as a coal is shipped more efficiently through a slurry pipeline than by truck or train)   Five or six quarts of this all-purpose fluid suffice for the body’s hundred trillion cells.”

“… What the telescope does to nearby galaxies, the microscope does to a drop of blood  :  it unveils the staggering reality.   A speck of blood the size of this letter “o”  contains 5,000,000 red cells,  300,000 platelets and  7,000 white cells.   The fluid is actually an ocean stock with living matter…”

”  A view through a microscope clarifies the various components of blood but gives no picture of the daily frenzy encountered by each cell….

”  Sixty thousand miles of blood vessels link every living cell, even the blood vessels themselves are fed by blood vessels…. ”

”  An average red cell endures the cycle of loading, unloading, and jostling through the body for a half million round trips over four months…”

” The components of this circulatory system cooperate to accomplish a simple goal : nourishing and cleansing each living cell.   If any part of the network breaks down – the heart takes an unscheduled rest, a clot overgrows and blocks an artery, a defect diminished the red cells’ oxygen capacity – life ebbs away.  The brain, master of the body, can survive intact only five minutes without replenishment.”

”  The drama of resurrection enacted before me in Connaught Hospital takes place without fanfare in each heartbeat of a healthy human being.   Every cell in every body lives at the mercy of blood.” 

One can only but stand in awe of the miracle of who were truly are – God’s intricate and magnificent workmanship – the human body.

Human body systems

Saint Augustine said   “Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars;  and they pass by themselves without wondering.”

 

We can assuredly agree with Psalmist of 139  where he glorifies God with these words

You created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I fearfully and wonderfully made. 

 

three butterflies