They Suck

Leeches & Maggots to Heal 
Wounds & the Well Heeled

Let’s supposed you just got into a non-life threatening car accident. You’re fine but your thumb may need microsurgery to remain attached. It’s time to call the suckers.
Now, before you phone your press agent (yes, we forgot to mention you’re also famous and do have one. Just play along, will you?) to inform your fans that you’re Ok, it was just a scratch and all that, hang on.
What the good doctor needs most is some leeches, to drain the congested blood in the area and help the skin recover. The little slimers  have natural anticoagulants, to keep fresh blood flowing until new vessels grow, and anesthetics for the pain. All to get your thumb up in no time.
Not in a mood to deal with that at the moment? No problem. Wait a few days and have your physician apply some maggots, to prevent necrosis, and you should be good to go. After that, yes, by all means, call your agent.
The practice of using leeches in cuts and wounds, and maggots to preserve tissue has been around since at least 1.500 BCE. But it’s become standard procedure for accident victims after the FDA approved it in 2004, despite general contempt from some within the medical establishment.
By the 17th century, such establishment had all but completely replaced the use of leeches, maggots, and other primitive techniques to heal the wounded, preferring a variety of bloodletting techniques, to mostly disastrous results. As it was hard to determine how much blood to let go, if any, the process would often kill the patient.
Maggots, for example, are helpful for cuts and advanced necrosis, specially in patients with diabetes whose bodies are too weak to fight infection. As with leeches, the length of time that they can be applied to the infected area can be easily monitored, to prevent them from boring into healthy tissue, or sucking excessive blood.

Of course, not all maggots are created equal, and no one should venture into such enterprise of using bugs to treat a wound without medical supervision. There are always a number of risks involved when introducing living organisms into any physical procedure. Risk of infection or of compromising an important blood vessel, for example, are serious threats too.
Then again, as with most things, if you’re not a member of the A-List, you may be out of luck. For most of us, it’s very likely that no insurance company would approve such far out therapy, albeit one that has been used by ancient Greek and Romans. And simply as a word of caution, praying should never ever be counted on as valid replacement for modern medicine.
If you do have an agent, though, which means, you’re a certified celebrity, for instance, chances are you already use a few unorthodox methods for your rejuvenating purposes. It’s the case of actress Demi Moore, an open advocate of beauty and anti-aging procedures. She’s not shy to disclose that she’s had quite a few of them, including laying down on a bed and letting the leeches work their magic.
If you were in such position, it’d be a double yummy situation for you too: using some suckers for your health and others for the health of your career. Isn’t that great for them? But never mind that now.
Most people are already disgusted about these segmented-body worms, and don’t care that they’re a hermaphrodite species known for taking good care of their young. We don’t know anyone who really likes flies of any kind either. But though they all do live in swamps and may show some love for our warm bodies, we’re not a natural part of their diet. So chill out.
Schools and medical institutions regularly buy leeches by the bulk, and one can find some very good, medicinal maggots in California, we’re told. A word of caution from that famous beauty researcher, Demi Moore, though: if you’re particularly hairy, it’s advisable to shave or waxing before treatment.
That’s when having an agent helps clearing up any potential misunderstandings, as we’re talking about procedures, here, not persons. With the authority of someone who underwent a few of them, she concludes: “They much prefer a Brazilian.”

* Original post published in Jan. 2011

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