It was on a Saturday, the 100th day of the year, that some church authorities believe that John the Apostle was ordained as Anitpas, the bishop of Pergamon. It was on April 11, during the reign of Nero. There is even a tradition of oil being secreted from his relics and Saint Antipas can be invoked for relief from a toothache or diseases of the teeth.

While that may be of some historical significance, what I am about to relate is of personal and on-going consequence because, on April 11, 1959, Joice Franklin gave birth to a son, Kirk James Franklin. He came, but the placenta didn’t and the doctor was worried about infection so he gave Joice massive shots of penicillin. The placenta eventually came but so did a serious reaction to the penicillin. Both her arms suddenly gave birth to large, hard, red, bumps and clumps, hot and annoying. The doctor told her she was allergic to penicillin and should never have it again—nor drugs that contained the same substance.

For 59 years now Joice has avoided all contacts with penicillin. She would even carefully cut the moldy ends and sides off the old bread we often had in the village where we lived—she knew that mold had something to do with penicillin. Although she didn’t discuss it much, she knew that penicillium mold naturally produces the antibiotic and that scientists had learned to grow the mold. They did so by putting it in deep fermentation tanks and adding a kind of sugar and other ingredients. It seemed clear to Joice—if she thought about it—that messing with moldy bread could cause shiny, red bumps on her arms. To be safe, she toasted all the bread we ate, after the mold was removed.

My wife is a thinker and a health advocate. She is a fruit and vegetarian activist and a modern medicine promoter. She gets magazines like Advanced Nutrition, Exercises to Die For, and Little Known Facts about Vegetable Life. Very little escapes her interest in medical facts.

I should explain that his is natural: anyone would do the same who has gone through a litany of therapeutic procedures like she has. She has had her tonsils removed, her knee wired, her wrist straightened, fatty tissue removed from her neck, a hysterectomy and treatment (extensive) for parotid cancer. A number of doctors whom she subsidized have added rooms to their houses.

With this background, it is easy to see how concerned she might be about a reaction to penicillin, which, she read, may disappear after a number of years (not the drug, just the reaction). “Why not,” she reasoned “have some tests done to see if I am still allergic to it?”

There is an Allergy and Asthma Center in town, so she called and got an appointment. It was at 11 am, but we needed to be there much earlier to fill out the pages of forms prior to any consultation. These are forms similar to those that we have completed for every doctor we visit in Waco—they don’t share information. Even height, weight, blood pressure, have to be recalculated at every medical office. The blood work from one lab may be different from another so, just to be sure, draw more blood—it seems like these are human vampires who work during the day or night.

It took four hours to complete all the tests and four doctors or technicians to do them, with substantial waiting periods between each.

The head doctor was from a country some distance from America and it was difficult to understand her—even with hearing aids. She expounded that they would begin with four needle pricks and that each spot would be color coded. After 20 minutes if red didn’t turn to green or if the little holes did not become big mounds of red, shiny spots, then the result was negative.

However, that would only account for 95% of the possibilities, so there would be other tests done on each upper arm. The tests there would be “different” and more substantial, so that by picking and prodding and waiting we would eventually be sure that everything was either negative or that it was positive.

Joice is a patient person—I am much less so, especially when waiting for doctors and technicians, who are usually performing their duties with 10 patients simultaneously.

Four hours later Joice learned that she was not allergic to penicillin and that she had been avoiding it without reason for 59 years.

This knowledge may cost us several hundred dollars, but she seems quite relieved to know that she can handle moldy bread again.

March 2018