In the very first chapter of the book, Nuland shares the story of an infant who has a mysterious lump in his belly, which is medically referred to as bezoar (Nuland 2000). It is important to understand that based on what most physicians see, the lump would have fallen into the category of an “undiagnosed mass that could be a congenital, neoplastic, traumatic, or inflammatory” in origin (p.31). However, despite the various possibilities that most doctors may have seen, the origin of the mass could not be understood until a combination of information was gathered. To “see” what was really going on, the mass was removed, which looked like candle wax, and then the doctor was able to probe the mother for questions to formulate that the mass was the collection of wax from the inside of a milk carton that the mother was warming up prior to feeding the baby.
In further understanding Nuland’s perspective of ‘seeing’ as an important theme in the book, the section of The Liver is explored next. As the pages of information covering the topic of the liver continue, one can see that evidence in the importance of the liver has existed even from ancient times. Although what is now known scientifically about the liver was not discovered, there were aspects even in mythological stories about how the liver was seen by the intellectual figures of ancient eras. For example the tale of Prometheus who is chained to a rock by Zeus, and left with a vulture who repeatedly feasted on his liver is an example of the use of the body organs to symbolize a message of their importance in ancient times (Nuland 2000).
In the modern scientific era Nuland states (2000), “the liver may not have proven to be the seat of life, but it was rapidly revealing itself to have a far more complex rang of jobs than anyone had foreseen” (133). The point being, that the more we come to see these organs and the depth of their functions, the more comprehension is gained by the medical and scientific community to make use of the knowledge to improve lives and prevent illness and death.
Lastly, I want to mention Nuland’s portion of the book discussing The Heart. Nuland’s chapters focusing on the heart delivers insight into the various stages of knowledge that have been gained over the centuries. For example, the onset of autopsies that provided a deeper study in the heart and lungs during the 1700’s when the Italian anatomist, Giovanni Morgani was able to examine hundreds of bodies and publish a book called The Seats and Causes of Disease (Nuland 2000, p.204). From there the invention of the stethoscope that allowed further comprehension into the functions of the heart that are still in use in the 21st century by nearly every physician as a fundamental medical tool. The point once again in Nuland’s discussion about “seeing”, includes awareness of the newest perspective on the workings of the human body that have allowed for the numerous advances in medicine that would not be possible otherwise.
In conclusion, The Mysteries Within explores the historical journey of those prior that were able to see the significance of various portions of the human body as an important aspect of life. Although the concepts may never have been delivered as they are in modern times, the sense of awareness/seeing, have inclined the medical community to continue examining further into the unseen. As the unseen becomes seen, the medical professionals are capable of comprehending the body to advance the in the field of medicine to continue the miracles seen throughout history in the medical field.
Nuland, Sherwin B. The Mysteries Within: A Surgeon Reflects on Medical Myths. New York:
Simon & Schuster, 2000. Print.