Sunday, March 11, 2007


My extensive research (consisting of several minutes of googling), reveals that magnesium sulfate, otherwise known as epsom salt was first discovered in the early 17th century, unsurprisingly, in the village of Epsom.

During a severe drought, a farmer dug a new well for his cattle, only to realize that they refused to drink from it. People soon noticed the healing powers of the bitter-tasting water, as well as of the crystals left behind when it was boiled. Epsom suddenly became a fashionable tourist destination, and its new-found popularity lasted until the supply of mineral water was almost exhausted and cheaper, easier ways of obtaining epsom salt were invented.

I mention this only because, for over 60 years, at least in the United States, magnesium sulfate has been the treatment of choice for preeclampsia. Administered intravenously, it prevents seizures, and, therefore, maternal deaths. Other countries were slower to adopt the procedure, mainly because no-one understood the reason that it worked. But it does work. It's saved thousands of womens' lives. Perhaps including mine.

At the hospital, once they diagnosed me with preeclampsia, they put me on two rounds of mag, as they called it. At first I felt as if I were burning up, then as if my life were being slowly snuffed out. Just like a candle, I thought, as I contemplated how much energy it would take to reach the intercom to call the nurse. This is what it must feel like to die.

When the resident stopped by I told him I was having trouble breathing. "Well," he said "If you can't breathe, be sure to let us know." I didn't have the strength to laugh, but it was the first thing that I'd found funny in weeks. And it was then that I began to believe that I was going to get better.

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