Healthcare Like an Egyptian

Dear Pharoah:

I recently read that the Detmold Child died from a heart condition. I’m so sorry. I know that he’s been dead for 6,500 years; however, I’m just getting the news. It’s absolutely incredible that scientists today could examine a mummy and conclude that the cause of death was heart related.

Did you know that today we can actually detect and treat lots of pediatric heart conditions?  It’s much different than those plagues that left you defenseless.

I have an idea for you. Why don’t you start checking the hearts of kids in Ancient Egypt? I want to warn you that you may encounter some challenges.

First, the Shamans (doctors) believe that Wehedu, one of the Egyptian Gods, has the power block the human “channels” (the heart). Since they learned this in Shaman school, they’ll probably want to stick with it – change is difficult.

Second, you might get some resistance from the physicians in your community. They may suggest that false positive rate of this new test is higher than their current technique. Their method of placing a finger on the back of the head, hand, stomach, arms and feet to “hear” the heart seems pretty effective.

Do you have anesthetics? You’ll definitely need those for the corrective procedures – open heart surgery, ablations, etc. Actually, do you even know what that means? I can already hear the medical community clamoring – “we don’t have enough anesthesiologists to perform these surgeries.  “Heck, we don’t even have heart surgeons.  We shouldn’t do this.”

And, as crazy as this one sounds, there will folks who say, “It is a tragedy that the Detmold Child died from a heart condition, but most of the mummies around today don’t have heart conditions.  Therefore, this problem isn’t big enough to warrant this change.”

I just realized that these objections don’t matter in your world. You’re Pharoah. You can just order them to do it. And besides, you guys are innovators. Egyptians are known for the advent of “medical care.”  You guys were considered to be very sophisticated. Case in point: the Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian record, details hundreds of medical conditions and treatments.

Pharaoh, did they have a Papyrus to document childhood cardiac deaths? Probably not since they just started tracking that here in the US in 2013.

Anyway, let me know how this all turns out. I hope you have an easier time than we have. You see, we’ve found out that adding an EKG exam to a physical exam increases our ability to detect potentially fatal heart conditions, but there are lots of people that still prefer the old way.

I guess in medicine, technology continues to advance, but attitudes and objections stay the same.

P.S. We decided to change the name of one of your medical specialities.  A “nery phuyt” or “shepherd of the anus” is now called a proctologist.  It works better for us. Your name just made us giggle.



Disclaimer: The Detmold Child was found in Peru and has absolutely nothing to do with Egypt. I’ve just always wanted to write a letter to Pharaoh.


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