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In praise of Alexander Fleming

June 29, 2019

Bloody hell, what a difference a day makes.

By the time I got in to see my doctor yesterday, my previous dose of Tylenol was on the wane and the dull ache in my mouth was turning back into a screaming pain.

“Oh, yes, that’s quite bad,” my doctor said after looking into my mouth at the blister which by then felt as big as a golf ball. (It had been a somewhat painful challenge to try to eat some lunch before I went to the office.) “You’re not allergic to penicillin, are you?” I told him I wasn’t, which turned out to be a good thing because it seems the best thing for the thing in my mouth involves penicillin.

He gave me a prescription and asked if I’d made an appointment with the dentist. My response was a tad disingenuous. The dentist, I said, would be on holiday next week and there was nothing they could do until the abscess was sorted. All of which was true. It didn’t actually mean I’d made an appointment with the dentist when he returns from his vacation. I haven’t. Yes, yes, I know I absolutely must, but one step at a time, okay?

Filled the prescription in the village, then came home and swallowed one antibiotic tablet and two Tylenols.

A funny thing happened. Well, when I say “funny”, I mean quite wonderful. By the time the four hours had elapsed before I could take my next dose of Tylenol, I didn’t need any. The screaming pain was gone. One pill, pain gone. Yes, the area around my front tooth and its root still felt delicate to the touch, but no more screaming pain.

Pain didn’t make it difficult to get to sleep last night. Pain didn’t wake me up at six in the morning. And this morning the golf ball in my mouth has been reduced to the size of a large pebble. Still hurts if I press my tongue on it, but not as much. (Yes, yes, I know, so don’t press your tongue on it. All very well, but that would fly in the face of one of the basic laws of human biology, which states categorically that a sore tooth – and by extension abscess – must be explored by the tongue.)

Thank you, Alexander Fleming.

In the unlikely event that his name means nothing to you, Sir Alexander Fleming was the Scottish physician whose research led to the discovery of benzylpenicillin, the world’s first antibiotic.

According to his entry on Wikipedia, in 2009 he was voted the third “greatest Scot” in a Scottish Television opinion poll. He was beaten by Robbie Burns and William Wallace. I am prepared to bet no one who voted for Burns or Wallace had ever woken up with a screamingly painful, golf ball-sized abscess in their mouth.

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