Saturday, April 14, 2007

"Wash Your Hands"

The year was 1818 and Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis was born into a world of dying women.

The most magnificent hospitals of the day were losing one out of every six young mothers to a mysterious scourge commonly referred to as “childbed fever”. The chance of infection and possibly death, to both mother and child, was an understood and even accepted hazard of medically assisted childbirth.

The average hospital was losing anywhere from 10% to 35% of mothers to what was known as puerperal fever.

In 1844, at twenty-six years of age, the now Dr. Semmelweis, decided that there was a connection between the mothers’ deaths and the practice of physicians.

It was at the Vienna General Hospital that Semmelweis began investigating the causes of puerperal fever, against the resistance of his superiors who believed it to be non-preventable. Semmelweis became the house officer of the First Obstetrical Clinic in July 1846, which had a maternal mortality rate due to puerperal fever of 13.10%. This was well known at the time and many women preferred to give birth to their children on the street rather than being brought there.

The Second Obstetrical Clinic had a mortality rate due to puerperal fever of only 2.03%, however; both were located in the same hospital and used the same techniques, with the only difference being the people who worked there.

The first was the teaching service for medical students, while the second had been selected in 1839 for the instruction of midwives.

The breakthrough for Ignaz Semmelweis occurred in 1847 with the death of his friend Jakob Kolletschka from an infection contracted after his finger was accidentally punctured with a knife while performing a postmortem examination.

Kolletschka's own autopsy showed a pathological situation similar to that of the women who were dying from puerperal fever. Semmelweis immediately proposed a connection between cadaveric contamination and puerperal fever and made a detailed study of the mortality statistics of both obstetrical clinics.

He concluded that he and the students carried the infecting particles on their hands from the autopsy room to the patients they examined in the First Obstetrical Clinic.

The germ theory of disease had not yet been developed at the time. Thus, Semmelweis concluded that some unknown "cadaveric material" caused childbed fever.

Semmelweis instituted a policy of using a solution of chlorinated lime for washing hands between autopsy work and the examination of patients. Following the institution of this guidleine the mortality rate dropped from its then-current level of 12.24% to 2.38%, comparable to the Second Clinic's.

After eleven years and the delivery of 8,537 babies, he lost only 184 mothers–about one in fifty.

The “savior of mothers” argued, “Puerperal fever (childbed fever) is caused by decomposed material, conveyed to a wound. I have shown how it can be prevented. I have proved all that I have said. But while we talk, talk, talk, gentlemen, woman are dying. I am not asking anything world shaking. I am merely asking you only to wash. . . For God’s sake, wash your hands.”

Something so simple as the washing of hands indefinitely changed the face of the medical community.

We now know how right Semmelweis was. At the time, however, he was met with strong resistance from the educated and tenured physicians of his day. It was seen as a mark of skill and ability for a doctor to have blood on his hands.

It was that simple pride in a perceived presentation that cost thousands of women their lives.

All they had to do to save the lives of the women and children they delivered was wash their hands.

How important it is that the church have clean hands.

We can easily be tempted in the reckless, carefree world we live in to see carnal pleasures and worldliness as a sign of our prowess and strength as ministers.

Brothers and Sisters it is simple yet crucial that we have clean hands.

In the words of Semmelweis himself, no one is asking anything world shaking. We are only asking that you wash your hands.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Waterline

It weighed 1,961 tons.

It was 269 feet long and could travel at a top speed of 19 knots.

It was the SS Eastland, one of the finest cruise ships in the City of Chicago, and on July 24th, 1915 it sank in the Chicago River still moored to the wharf.

The Eastland and two other cruise ships, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Petoskey, were hired to take employees from Chicago's Western Electric Company to a picnic in Michigan City, Indiana.

Passengers began boarding around 6:30 AM.

By 7:10, the ship had reached its capacity of 2,500 passengers. It had also developed a list to the port, which the crew attempted to stabilize by admitting water to the ballast tanks.

By 7:28, the Eastland began to roll over. In just 5 minutes, with several hundred people watching from the dock, the great cruise ship came to rest on its side. It was laying in 20 feet of water only 18 feet from the wharf, on the south bank of the Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle Streets.

841 passengers and 3 crew members were killed.

After the river was cleared of the bodies and the great boat investigators came to a consensus as to the fate of the Eastland.

It seems as if the already top heavy Eastland was put further out of balance by the addition of life boats after the Titanic accident.

The added life boats placed more weight above the water line than was below, and the Eastland rolled.

What was viewed as a measure of safety became the catalyst for the great ships demise.

One of the most imporant maritime principles is that there must be more weight below the waterline than above. The Eastland violated this principle and 844 souls were lost in 20 feet of water, 18 feet from the shore.

It is vital that we apply this principle to our souls.

It matters not what is seen on the surface. What really matters, and will insure our safety, is what weight we have beneath the waterline.

Is our house in order? Or, to put it more succintly, is our soul right?

Many mistakenly believe that their external appearance, all that people see of them in the natural world, is all that really matters. The reality is that it is the unseen condition of the soul that will decide if we “sink or swim”.

While the other boats on that fateful day, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Petosky, may not have been as admired or applauded as the Eastland, in their humble appearance they remained afloat because they mastered a simple maritime principle.

The principle of the waterline.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

My Day In Court

I didn’t do it. Honest.

This time I really didn’t do it. Every other time I have been pulled over by a police officer it has been my own fault.

I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt. I was speeding. I was changing lanes in an intersection without signaling while running a red light and speeding.

Something like that.

This time however, I was innocent.

The speed limit was 55. My cruise was set at 55 because I had just got a ticket two days earlier and I didn’t want the obligatory lecture from my better half about my habit of driving at a speed normally reserved for test tracks on the slat flats. I even showed my wife that the cruise was set at 55.

And then it happened. In my rear view mirror appeared those all too familiar blueberries and cherries. I was being pulled over!

The officer asked if I knew why I was being pulled over. Actually, No, I didn’t know why he had pulled me over. I knew it wasn’t for speeding because my cruise was set at 55. He said, “Actually, I clocked you going 72.”

It was at this point that things began to go down hill.

Someone challenged the others honesty, a few car doors were slammed, questions were asked, demands were made, some words were exchanged. At one point someone was told to “Shut up and get back in the car”.

Anyway, I digress.

After the scene was over I took my ticket and drove on home.

After the 30 days passed I phoned the county courthouse and requested a trial by judge. I did not want to pay a ticket I knew I didn’t deserve. So I cast my lot with the judge.

The day of my trial, as I drove to the county courthouse, a realization struck me. I might not win this.

The judge might not be a fair man. I might say the wrong thing. He could charge me anything he wants if he finds me guilty. He could make me, if he would so choose, to spend a night in jail. The officer might be his brother/dad/uncle/neighbor and I’m going to owe the county hundreds of dollars. Maybe spend a night in jail if I couldn’t pay the fine he chooses to levy against me.

It struck me that casting my lot with the judge might not have been such a good idea.

It was then that I began to pray!

I arrived early hoping that promptness would carry some virtue with “your honor”.

As I sat in the empty courtroom a side door opened and in walked the prosecutor for the county.

She asked if I was there for a trial. “Yes Maam”.

She then asked me what my name was and I told her. She then informed me that they didn’t have a current phone number for me and they had been trying to contact me. It seems as though the officer who wrote the ticket decided to drop the charges. My license would be returned to me and no fine exacted.

How do you spell relief? N-o-t-g-u-i-l-t-y!

The judge walked into the courtroom and called my name. The bailiff escorted me to the front of the courtroom and instructed me to stand before the judge. He asked me my name.


“Your charges have been dropped. Do you accept this?”

“Yes, your honor”.

My license was handed back to me, I signed a document and I was free to go.

The birds sang, the flowers bloomed and the breese was blowing slightly from the east that day. Things couldn’t have been better!

I felt great. It wasn’t just “not guilty”. It was “the charges are dropped”.

I wasn’t given my license back because I was found innocent. I was given my license back because they had nothing to charge me with.

I left that day with a greater appreciation for what Jesus did for me on Calvary.

Today is Easter Sunday and I have a greater appreciation for what Easter means after having faced the judge and having heard him tell me I’m free to go. There are no charges against you.

That’s what Calvary and an empty grave means to the soul today.

We’re not just found innocent. The blood wipes our record so that there’s not even any charges to be heard.

Thank God for the Blood!

Happy Easter!