Once Upon a Time, Not So Long Ago…

I always think of myself as a lucky mother… which makes me laugh out loud since – as a retired New York City high school and college teacher – I’m used to hearing that as half a word. But I do refer to being a parent.McKee

Here’s an example of why: I have everything I want, so when my first born asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day this year I told her I wanted research (She’s an excellent researcher.) into the history of Chronic Kidney Disease. Guess what I got.

I am writing a novel that deals with time travel back to 1885 and needed this information to continue. I knew Chronic Kidney Disease was a relatively new field of medicine, but hadn’t expected it to be this new.

My daughter was astonished at how little she could get, but then again, there isn’t much history is there? So get ready for a (short) history lesson that combines my daughter’s research and mine.

Glomerulus-Nephron 300 dpi jpgIn the 1700’s kidney diseases weren’t recognized for what they were and not often diagnosed, although people were dying of urea poisoning or dropsy.  Urea poisoning is what we now refer to as urea in the blood. Is this starting to sound familiar?

As for dropsy, MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=13311 defines this as

An old term for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water….The Middle English dropesie came through the Old French hydropsie from the Greek hydrops which in turn came from the Greek hydor meaning water.

Today we call it edema and usually give the cause of it. For instance, if you have CKD, during your office visit the nephrologist will press on the skin of your leg to see if you have edema caused by CKD.

There’s a theory that Mozart may have died of CKD caused by recurrent urinary tract infections. This has been tossed around in fiction about Mozart’s life (Have you read Mozart’s Wife by Juliet Waldron? It’s an excellent historical fiction.), but there seem to be some circumstances validating this. You can read more about this at http://ukrocharity.org/2012/08/diary-of-a-kidney-lover-did-mozart-die-of-kidney-disease/

brightLet’s move up to 1827 and meet Dr. Richard Bright who worked at Guy’s Hospital in London. You may know of him already as The Father of Nephrology, although he also researched diseases of other parts of the body such as the heart, liver, pancreas, and pulmonary system.  Bright’s Disease, now called glomerulonephritis, is defined by the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glomerulonephritis/basics/definition/con-20024691 as

inflammation of the tiny filters in your kidneys (glomeruli). Glomeruli remove excess fluid, electrolytes and waste from your bloodstream and pass them into your urine. Also called glomerular disease, glomerulonephritis can be acute — a sudden attack of inflammation — or chronic — coming on gradually.

Although this designation held for over a century, we now call it nephritis, which is an inflammation of the kidneys. And what is CKD if not an inflammatory disease?

Not quite 100 years later, it was discovered that not all proteinuria (protein in the urine or ‘protein spill’) was considered dangerous. This is from the History of Nephrology by Neil Turner at http://historyofnephrology.blogspot.com/2014/11/marathon-nephritis-and-postural.html

proteinProteinuria after exertion was first described in 1878. It was memorably characterised by Collier in 1907 in a systematic report on 156 Oxford rowers training for the ‘Torpids’.  57% of urine samples taken 1-1.5h after vigorous rowing contained protein.  Smaller studies in other populations of athletes gave similar results. He compared these results with the historically recorded lifespans of 294 participants in the University Boat Race – they were longer than average.  This made it seem unlikely that post-exertional proteinuria conveyed a bad long term prognosis. 

I wonder how frustrated Dr. Bright became when he first suspected that hypertension had a strong effect on the kidneys, but had no way to prove that theory since the first practical sphygmomanometer wasn’t yet available. It wasn’t brought to the U.S. until 1901, but was available earlier in Britain in an earlier form which was difficult to obtain, manipulate, and calibrate as you can see from the picture.Mahomeds Sphygmograph

With all our outcry about following a low sodium diet, it was a bit shocking to realize that when this was first suggested as a way to avoid edema in 1949, it was practically dismissed. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the importance of a low sodium diet in Chronic Kidney Disease was acknowledged.

We’ll end this extremely brief history of nephrology with the words of nephrologist Veeraish Chauhan from his “A Brief History of the Field of Nephrology” at http://kidneydisease.about.com/od/Kidney-Disease/fl/A-Brief-History-of-the-Field-of-Nephrology.htm in which he emphasizes how young the field of modern nephrology is.

 Dr. Smith was an American physician and physiologist who was almost single handedly responsible for our current understanding of how the kidneys work. He dominated the field of twentieth century Nephrology so much that it is called the “Smithian Era of Renal Physiology“. He wrote the veritable modern Bible of Nephrology titled, The Kidney: Structure and Function in Health and Disease. This was only in 1951.

51 years. That was only 64 years ago, ladies and gentlemen. That was during my lifetime. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if these discoveries had never been made… or if I would have a life at all.

Do you have any more tidbits about the history of nephrology to share with us? If so, just add a comment.

What is it

On the book front, I wonder how many of you are aware that you don’t need to buy my books to read them. Are you a member of Amazon Prime or is someone in your household? Then you can borrow the books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for free.  Do you have a favorite library? Then you can ask your librarian to order the book and once it arrives, read it for free. You can also borrow library books for free on your Kindle, but first you need to make certain your library has a copy. Then there’s BookLending.com. Enter the title and borrow it for free.  You can also lend it for free. I’m also looking into Lendleme.com, but haven’t explored it enough to recommend it yet.IMG_1398

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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