Gulp

"Gulp" is the name of the book I’m just finishing. It’s written by Mary Roach, an author who has become known for taking a thorough look at topics many people wouldn’t come near (sex, the after-life and corpses).

"Gulp," as she puts it, is a trip down the alimentary canal from start to finish. I found it interesting, but it won’t be for everyone, especially if you’re squeamish about what the intestines do.

Anyway, I bring this up because it has a couple of South Dakota references in it. At one point, Roach points out the aptness of the last names of people she’s dealt with (I didn’t mark the page at the time because I didn’t know there would be a Sioux Falls connection later so I can’t give exact examples). But you know, it’s connections like the Rev. Bruce Pray.

Anyway, again, she quotes from “Inner Hygiene,” described as an excellent and scholarly history of constipation, the statement, “Allow nothing short of fire or endangered life to induce you to resist … nature’s alvine call.”

Roach loves footnotes (so do I, if they contain juicy bits of knowledge and not just ibid.s) and that sentence has a footnote. “Alvin,” she shares, means of or relating to the belly or intestines. Roach goes on to say, “With crushing disappointment, I learned that Dr. Gregory Alvine is an orthopedist. Staff at the oxymoronic Alvine Foot & Ankle Center did not respond to a request for comment.”

I’m not sure what Roach wanted a comment on — whether the Sioux FAlls doctor would be willing to change his practice to gastroenterology, I guess — but it was a great missed opportunity.

The next South Dakota reference came when Roach was writing about megacolons, intestines that have reeeeeeeeeeeeally been stretched out of shape. For a reference, think Elvis Presley and his problems. (I TOLD you this book isn’t for everyone.)

In a discussion of megacolons that have been preserved, Roach talks about “Mr. K.” who came from Groton. She writes:

"This was the case … with the megacolon of a Mr. K., written up in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1902. In a photograph that accompanies the article, the organ lies on what appears to be a hospital bed, as though it rew so big that it eventually eclipsed Mr. K. entirely and the doctors and nurses took to caring for it in his place, changing the sheets, bringing meals on trays, putting bendy straws in its ginger ale. All we know about poor Mr. K. is that he lived in Groton, South Dakota. Everything else has been subsumed by the details of the autopsy and a frightful chronology of  doctor-assisted evacuations. From a medical aside, we glean that Mr. K. had a family and that they seemed to care about him: ‘June 22, the report was received that he had passed an ordinary pailful of feces. … There was much rejoicing in the family.’ "