This Will Kill You

A Guide to the Ways in Which We Go

HP Newquist and Rich Maloof; Illustrated by Jim Shinnick

St. Martin's Griffin

This Will Kill You
TWO-MINUTE MED SCHOOL
In the pages to follow, you're going to find out a lot of things about your body that you probably didn't know. Much of it is going to involve strange words with lots of syllables and vowels in weird places. Unless you went to medical school, terms like infarction and hypovolemia are likely to make you think of countries in the former Soviet Union.
To help you sort out these terms, and get a glimpse into the workings of your anatomy, we're adding this special section as a bonus. We call it "Two-Minute Med School," and it's included here free of charge (and there's nothing in real medical schools that is ever free of charge). After reading "Two-Minute Med School," you will have the same command of scientific and medical terms normally reserved for emergency-room surgeons--just like those played on TV.
Once you're familiar with these terms, you'll be able to use them at parties and other social gatherings, not to mention in private conversation with your physician. Go ahead, impress everyone you know by noting that an inflammation is not the same thing as an infection. Amaze your friends by pointing out the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest. And if you happen to be having one, you can tell the ER guy what's happening and just maybe speed things up at the hospital.
If nothing else, refer back here when you see a word you don'tknow, just like the doctors do with all those books on the shelves in their offices. Oh yeah, they're looking this stuff up more often than you'd like to think.
 
Antivenin: an antidote for venom. Antivenin and antivenom are synonyms.
 
Anaphylactic shock: an allergic reaction to a protein, usually in the form of a bee sting, penicillin, peanut, or other entity that results in a drop in blood pressure, typically from dilated blood vessels. Also called anaphylaxis, but anaphylactic shock may be the most fun term to say in this entire book.
 
Asphyxiation: oxygen deprivation
 
Bacterium: a single-celled organism; the plural is bacteria. Dormant bacteria are spores, and spores become active under the right conditions such as those found under your skin.
 
Cardiac arrest: when your heart stops beating. If this happens for more than five minutes, you are going to die.
 
Circulatory failure, circulatory collapse: see Shock
 
Heart attack: an event that directly affects the functioning of the heart. Think of it as something that attacks the heart, like a restricted supply of blood; some sort of interruption. A heart attack, if left untreated, may lead to cardiac arrest, which is the actual stopping of the heart. That's when things get fatal. Cardiac arrest is the stage at which the heart ceases to work, and this will kill you.
 
Hemorrhage: profuse or abnormal bleeding. This often occurs when blood vessels are ruptured or severed. For instance, a cerebral hemorrhage occurs when blood flows into brain tissue from broken blood vessels.
 
Hypovolemic shock: a state of shock caused by reduced blood volume. This is usually caused by severe bleeding and the resultant blood loss. When too little blood enters the heart, too little blood is pumped to the brain and the rest of the body.
 
Hypoxia: a low level of oxygen in the tissues of the body, usually resulting from compromised blood flow or low oxygen levels in the blood.
 
Infarction: the death of tissue when blood supply is cut off to that tissue.
 
Infection: what happens to your body when it is invaded by disease-causing microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. The growth of these microorganisms as they feed off of your body creates an infection.
 
Inflammation: your body's reaction to an injury. When you are wounded, or microorganisms like viruses and bacteria attack your body, blood flow to that area increases in order to fight the culprit with white blood cells. This increased blood flow is what turns inflamed areas red. Other chemicals are released into the area to help repair the damage.
 
Myocardial infarction: a heart attack
 
Necrosis: the death of living cells and tissues. Necrosis can occur in one section of an organ or tissue while other sections remain healthy.
 
Neurotoxin: a toxin that destroys nerve cells. Since the largest concentration of nerves are found in the brain and spinal cord, they are extremely susceptible to neurotoxins.
 
Organ failure: the failure of one of your essential organs, notably your heart, lungs, kidney, liver, and brain. Multiple organ failure meansthat two or more of these have shut down. Multiple organ failure is also referred to as multiple organ dysfunction syndrome (MODS).
 
Pulmonary: relating to the lungs and the movement of blood to and from the lungs. The respiratory system, on the other hand, describes the lung's intake of air and involves the mouth, nose, trachea, and diaphragm.
 
Renal failure: the inability of your kidneys to adequately filter waste products out of your blood. Renal is from the Latin for kidneys.
 
Shock: a potentially deadly condition in which your blood pressure is too low to keep you alive. Shock occurs when your blood pressure drops so much that your cells don't get enough blood and therefore not enough oxygen. This prevents cells in your brain, heart, and other organs from functioning normally, leading to failure in these organs. A number of things can cause shock, but one of the most common is low blood volume, which is known as hypovolemic shock. It is critically important to note that medical shock is not the same thing as emotional shock. Emotional shock is a sudden psychological or emotional disturbance.
 
Toxin: a poisonous substance produced by living organisms. Toxins can cause disease and adverse reactions in specific areas of your body. Neurotoxins attack nerve cells, hemotoxins destroy red blood cells, and cardiotoxins damage the heart.
 
Trauma: physical damage that is inflicted on your body as the result of an external force. This can be a punch in the face, a car accident, a fall, a gunshot, and a host of other events that deliver an impact to your body. Trauma is an actual cause of death when the amount of force destroys organs and major blood vessels. Severe trauma is one of the primary causes of death worldwide, and the leading killer of people under the age of forty-five in the United States. Emotionaltrauma should not be confused with physical trauma, just as emotional shock should not be confused with physical shock.
 
Virus: an infectious organism that invades living cells and reproduces itself. A virus does this by releasing its DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) or RNA (ribonucleic acid) into the host cell, which makes new copies of the virus. The host cell then dies and releases new viruses, which find new hosts. Viruses are smaller than bacteria.
THIS WILL KILL YOU. Copyright © 2009 by HP Newquist and Rich Maloof. Foreword copyright © Peter M. Fitzpatrick, M.D. Afterword copyright © Bill McGuinness. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.