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That cruel thing I did to Debbie Wasserman-Schlutz’s eyeballs

I ran across this Mashable series of photos of inmates from a Victorian mental hospital in Yorkshire. It’s a sad browse, but interesting. I was particularly struck by this woman.

The caption says she suffers from “general paralysis of the insane” but it’s more usually called general paresis. It’s a sudden onset bugfuck crazy that used to be blamed on bad character but was ultimately recognized as the third and final stage of syphilis, when the bugs finally eat the brain.

It was tricky to work out because the madness strikes abruptly as much as thirty years after the initial infection, so the bad character explanation made as much sense as anything (a Victorian with syphilis being the very definition). But somebody got a Nobel in the thirties curing paresis by infecting patients with malaria (the syphilis bacterium can’t take the heat, so one good fever can kill it off).

My mother describes seeing a tertiary syphilis sufferer on Bourbon Street, stumbling along the road suddenly freezing with one foot in the air, having forgotten how to walk. The diagnosis comes courtesy of my grandmother being a nurse and jazzmen being no better than they should be, *sniff*.

Anyway, I mention it because this condition informs one of my most cherished phobias: Lyme disease. On account of it’s a very similar disease with a very similar progression: spirochete causes a small rash, disappears, roars back with a leather mask and a chainsaw thirty years later. Except Lyme is a lot harder to kill.

Summer is coming. Tick check, people!

sock it to me

March 17, 2015 — 9:05 pm
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