Beyond Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Sagan

My ultrasound images revealed a clear, normal abdominal aorta at age 77.

When Dr. Spencer Reed examined my abdomen with a stethoscope he heard a soft whistling sound called an abdominal bruit. While it can indicate trouble, my brief ultrasound exam revealed that “my whistle” was entirely benign, maybe related to my strong heart and pulse pressure. Having been dedicated to preventive health for 30 years I was happy to clear up the question of the bruit. My aorta looked particularly good for a 77 year old American male.


Recently having seen the popular and astounding movie (I don’t see many) Oppenheimer, I thought about Albert Einstein. At age 69, he required major lifesaving aortic repair at the hands of the great general surgeon, Robert Nissen. Later, after 6 years of quiet living he died from rupture of his aorta as he had refused life-extending care. Why was I so lucky while our greatest scientist had suffered from aortic disease that took his life?


Carl Sagan was a true hero for me and millions of others. He has opened our eyes and imaginations to the cosmos. I wondered why his life was cut short at such an early age. He died tragically at age 62 of aplastic anemia, an often lethal condition when the bone marrow production of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets is mysteriously shut down. I recalled my med school training regarding the drug Butazolidin which was later withdrawn by the FDA because of its relationship to the fatal side effect of aplastic anemia. While I learned early in my practice to avoid “Bute”, it was nonetheless commonly prescribed for back pain and arthritis for decades and is still in use for horses! Could Sagan have fallen victim to its fatal side effects, the danger of which was not suspected before he died?


I further wondered about Robert Oppenheimer himself, the greatest particle physicist of his time. Having lived near Hiroshima as a boy I was riveted by the history of the atomic bomb and its devastation upon the peoples of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Oppenheimer also died prematurely and tragically at age 67, this time as a result of throat cancer, a preventable disease. His cigarettes and the physical and mental stress which he was experienced are all depicted graphically in the movie.


Why have our most brilliant scientists died prematurely and at such tragic loss to their families and to society? I’m convinced it is because of their absence of holistic health and because their doctors and medical peers were themselves unaware of preventive health.

To your preventive health,
Dr. Tom Rosenberg

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