Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five 215

Just when you thought your brain could unwind on a Friday, you realise that it would rather be challenged with some good old fashioned medical trivia FFFF, introducing the Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five 215

Question 1

Sir Robert Jones from last week’s FFFF came from a strong line of ‘bone setters’

Who was his uncle and what device did Jones promote that his uncle invented in World War one to reduce mortality in wounded soldiers?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Hugh Owen Thomas (1834 – 1891), the godfather of British Orthopaedics.

The invention in question was the Thomas splint, reducing mortality in femur fractures from 87% to 8%.


Question 2

What did the nymph Ondine do to her husband when he committed adultery, and what does that have to do with medicine?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Ondine’s husband promised his every waking breath to her. On discovering his adultery she cursed him that so long as he was awake he could breathe, but if he ever fell asleep he would stop breathing and die.

Ondine’s curse has therefore been coined for Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome – a sleep disorder in children with episodic or sustained hypoventilation and hypoxemia in the first months of life without obvious metabolic, cardiopulmonary, or neuromuscular disease. Most patients breathe normally while awake but hypoventilate during sleep.

However this is a literary misnomer, the nymph Ondine falls in love with a mortal. When the mortal is unfaithful to the nymph, he is cursed by the king of the nymphs and not Ondine.

In 1962, Severinghaus and Mitchell coined the term Ondine’s curse to describe a syndrome that manifested in 3 adult patients after high cervical and brainstem surgery. When awake and needing to breathe, these patients did so; however, they required mechanical ventilation for severe central apnea when asleep.

  • Severinghaus JW, Mitchell RA: Ondine’s curse – failure of respiratory center automaticity while awake. Clin Res 1962; 10: 122
  • Editorial: Ondine’s curse. JAMA. 1965; 193(12): 1048-1049.
  • Kuhn M, Lütolf M, Reinhart WH. Ondine’s Curse. Respiration, 1999; 66(3), 265–265.

Question 3

Where does Murphy’s law come from?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Aviation, of course.

Dr. John Stapp, a U.S. Air Force Colonel and Flight Surgeon in the 1950s headed research project MX981 at Edward’s Air Force Base testing human tolerances for G-force. The tests used a rocket sled mounted on a railroad track and initially a crash test dummy was used but later Stapp would jump in the testing seat.

During the tests, questions were raised about the accuracy of the instrumentation used to measure the g-forces Captain Stapp was experiencing. Edward Murphy proposed using electronic strain gauges he was researching. A test was done on a chimpanzee and Murphy’s assistant set up the wiring. The sensors provided a zero reading; however, it became apparent that they had been installed incorrectly, with each sensor wired backwards.

Now the accounts become controversial, Stapp’s version of accounts consist of a disgusted Murphy blaming his assistant  saying, “If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will.”  According to Strapp, Murphy was offered to check the device prior to testing and refused, thus creating an awkward relationship with the MX981 team. “Murphy’s law” came about through conversation among the other members of the team; it was condensed to “If it can happen, it will happen,” and named after Murphy in mockery of what was perceived as arrogance on Murphy’s part. [Reference]


Question 4

Who said:

We all labour against our own cure, for death is the cure of all diseases.

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682)

Browne was an English physician and noted writer in fields such as medicine and religion. He was something of a hero to Sir William Osler, who kept a copy of Browne’s ‘Religio Medici‘ (1643) in his bedside library.

Another great Browne quote is this:

No one should approach the temple of science with the soul of a money changer.


Question 5

What infectious disease, which probably featured as the bioweapon in the Sherlock Holmes story “The Dying Detective”, is also known as the Vietnamese time-bomb and Nightcliff Gardener’s disease?

Reveal the funtabulous answer

Melioidosis.

It is a common cause of serious pneumonia and blood poisoning in the Top End of Australia. The bacteria live below the soil’s surface during the dry season, but after heavy rainfall can be found in surface water and mud and may become airborne

Nightcliff is a suburb of Darwin, Australia where melioidosis has been endemic.

The term Vietnamese time-bomb comes from the helicopters disrupting the soil in Vietnam and soldiers return to America infected with melioidosis.


…and finally

medical student history: unicyclemedic
medical student history: unicyclemedic

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Funtabulously Frivolous Friday Five

Dr Neil Long BMBS FACEM FRCEM FRCPC. Emergency Physician at Burnaby Hospital in Vancouver. Loves the misery of alpine climbing and working in austere environments. Supporter of FOAMed, toxicology, tropical medicine, sim and ultrasound

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