By Bill Eagle for the Valley Bugler

Emmi Lahti was 12 years old and lived on a farm in Quincy Oregon. She had just completed her evening chores, and was cleaning herself up for dinner. Her Aunt Piia Seppela, who was her mother's sister, was visiting for a few days. Emmi has always liked her, in fact she was a favorite relative and Emmi was looking forward to spending some time with her.

Aunt Piia was a medical Doctor who lived in Seattle and practiced at Seattle Children's Hospital. Emmi was fascinated with her aunt, not only by the fact that she was a doctor but also because she was engaged to another doctor.

Emmi emerged from the bathroom "I worked really hard in getting barnyard smell off of me. I think I'm clean enough to wear surgical scrubs

Aunt Piia giggled. "Do you really know what we have to do before we go into surgery?"
Emmi nodded. "You have to wash really clean."

Piia nodded back. "That we do, a person working in a surgery has to scrub their hands with a sterile brush in a stainless steel sink. We need to take care not to let our surgical scrubs touch the sink's surface. We wash and rinse multiple times with liquid anti bacterial soap always making sure that none of the rinse water splashed from the sink falls back on to our hands.  We then will wipe our hands with a sterile towel and then slip both hands into latex surgical gloves, taking care not to touch the outside of the gloves.
We need to be very careful not to contaminate our gloves or our clothing when we are in the operating room."

Emmi laughed. "I know that you are a wonderful doctor. You're always so clean that you shine."

Aunt Piia grinned and sat next to Emmi at the Lahti dinner table. "Doctors weren't always clean," whispered Piia. "Doctors didn't use to think that cleanliness was necessary or even a virtue. Prior to the turn of the 20th century many doctors didn't believe in microbes or that infection could be transmitted from unclean hands or clothing.
Whenever a doctor was forced to operate, they didn't wear disposable surgical scrubs like we do now. They would wear aprons over their clothing, similar to the kind that butchers sometimes wear. Their aprons would often be splattered with dried puss and blood. They wore them with pride and considered these stains to be a sign of their surgical expertise."

Emmi wrinkled her nose, "Euww gross!"

Aunt Piia nodded. "It's no wonder that prior to the 20th century, more people died from infection than from operations. I have a photocopy from a 1927 Time Magazine article in my purse. Let me read some of it to you:  "…And yet it is scarcely 60 years since hospitals were like charnel houses. Every other patient carried into a hospital for surgical treatment, was carried out dead of blood poisoning, their wounds a stinking fester."
Piia put the photocopy back into her purse. "Years ago, over half the people who were taken to a hospital, never survived, they would die of infections.

Most people know something about Louis Pasteur, you know who he is don't you?"

Emmi nodded her head. "He invented milk pasteurization and a cure for Rabies.

"You seem to know quite a bit about him," said Aunt Piia.

"I do" Said Emmi. "We read about him in school."

"Then you know" said Piia that he proved the validity of the "germ theory," that diseases were spread by germs, not "bad air."  He proved that germs caused fermentation of liquids as well as diseases and developed a method of killing germs in liquids (we now call this method pasteurization). Pasteur, helped build upon the work of Edward Jenner, and experimented with ways to inoculate people against diseases such as Anthrax, Small Pox and Rabies."

Piia and Emmi then waited until Sulo and Annie sat down for dinner. Sulo was just about ready to say grace. When Piia leaned over to Annie and whispered, "Do you know about Joesph Lister?"

Emmi shook her head, "Un uh. Who's he? Did he invent Listerine?"

They both giggled.

Annie stared at the two of them. What are you girls giggling about? Are you up to some sort of mischief?"

Emmi put on her serious face. "Oh no
Äiti, we are talking about serious medical stuff. Joseph Lister and Listerine."

Piia chimed in. "Dr. Lister really didn't invent Listerine, but they did name that mouth wash after him. He is the father of medical cleanliness. He discovered that if surgeons sterilize their hands and their medical equipment, people are much less likely to get infections.

Many people don't know anything about Joseph Lister, but he made one of the most important medical discoveries of modern time."

Emmi giggled. "He discovered that doctors needed to wash their hands."

Sulo smiled, shook his head and said. "God Bless. This indeed is something that we should be thankful for. Now let's all give thanks for the gifts that we are now about to receive."


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