Little Perspective

Published May 27, 2007

Today, Lincoln would survive

At the 13th Historical Clinicopathological Conference, experts took on this question: Would Abraham Lincoln have survived his fatal gunshot wound had it been 2007 instead of 1865? The short answer: Yes. But if he had lived, he would at the very least have been partially blind, unsteady on his feet, numb in certain regions of his body and inarticulate. Nevertheless, he might have been able to think and, after much rehabilitation, communicate. "He had a nonfatal injury by 2007 standards, " said Thomas Scalea, a surgeon. Lincoln was shot about 10:25 p.m. on April 14, 1865. He lived long past the "golden hour" when stabilization of vital functions - principally, respiration and blood pressure - is essential. That fact alone leads Scalea to believe modern medicine would have saved him. "For him to have lived today would not be an extraordinary thing."


Not monumental enough

Summarizing the Weekly Standard's cover story, Slate describes how the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., came to be and mourns the spread of "unmonumental" memorials. The winning design, "Crescent of Embrace, " initially drew criticism because the crescent is an Islamic symbol. The revised version, which replaces the crescent with a "bowl, " will also include 40 groves of trees, 40 red and sugar maples, and a "Tower of Voices" housing 40 wind chimes, to commemorate the 40 passengers aboard Flight 93. The author expresses dismay that this $45-million structure, expected to pump nearly $90-million into the local economy within five years, will replace the current ad hoc memorial.


One word, everybody: plastics

Stace Owens, a 33-year-old real estate agent from Dallas, is one of thousands who have agreed to donate their bodies for plastination, in which body fluids are replaced by liquid plastic, a process made popular by Gunther von Hagens' "Body Worlds." (The rival "Bodies: The Exhibition" that came to MOSI in Tampa uses a Chinese medical university, no donors.) Since the donation program began in 1983, 7, 652 have agreed to donate their bodies and 461 have already died. "The body is just a vessel, " Owens said. "This is just what I have in this life."


Bringing light to the night

Since August 2005, when visits to an Eritrean village prompted him to research global access to artificial light, Mark Bent, 49, a former foreign service officer and Houston oilman, has spent $250, 000 to develop and manufacture a solar-powered flashlight. His invention gives up to seven hours of light on a daily solar recharge and can last nearly three years between replacements of three AA batteries costing 80 cents. Over the last year, he said, he and corporate benefactors like ExxonMobil have donated 10, 500 flashlights to U.N. refugee camps and African aid charities. "I find it hard sometimes to explain the scope of the problems in these camps with no light, " Bent said. "If you're an environmentalist, you think about it in terms of discarded batteries and coal and wood burning and kerosene smoke; if you're a feminist, you think of it in terms of security for women and preventing sexual abuse and violence; if you're an educator, you think about it in terms of helping children and adults study at night."