Prof. Dr. Kemal Arıkan
Psychiatrist

A Scientific Adventure

Bir Bilimsel Macera

While presenting a hepatic cirrhosis patient to the professor, an internal medicine assistant was going to report that the individual had a history of frequently recurring epileptic seizures although the patient had not had any seizures for the past two years.

Halil was going to express his joy in discovering his sharp observatory skills time after time to countless people. The sentence “Right at that moment, I observed the possible correlation between cirrhosis and epilepsy and developed my hypothesis that very evening!”, which he repeated tirelessly, was going to be one of the basic clichés in Halil’s wordbook.

During those years, scientists would get a permission from the President and travel to Ankara to make a research about the things they were curious about. The medical index was available only at a couple of places. Analyses would take days, while obtaining any spotted journal articles would take months.

Driven by his imagination and speculations, Halil developed an interesting but simple theory regarding the correlation of ammonia-epilepsy by hastily going through a couple of very old sources, “Ammonia tends to increase in cirrhosis, it goes up to the brain, decreasing the amount of stimulating molecules, therefore making the suppressing molecules dominant. Here you go! A natural treatment of epilepsy!” he was thinking to himself…

He developed the theory, and that night, he bought himself a glass of rakı at the restaurant of the guest house. After all, he was now a scientist, an intellectual. He could drink rakı or smoke cigarettes if he wanted to… He would either be able to ride the high horse or be humble. Long story short, he had never felt so “scientist” before.

The other day, he brought up the subject to the professor. He met the physiology instructor of the faculty thanks to him. That physiologist was quite a cordial instructor, the type you can call “sweet”. He also was in need of a research. Because they didn’t make him an associate professor despite him being an instructor for long years. Because he had some sort of – well actually more than “sort of” – oppositional character. He couldn’t just ignore any wrongdoing he would witness. What could have he done? That was the way he learned from his father, who also learned it from his grandfather. Apparently, as a family, they were against all kinds of wrongdoings and injustices.

Halil was going to love physiologist instructor Erman, and their friendship was going to last for a lifetime. Instructor Erman listened to the theory. Believing it to a certain extent, yet still having his doubts, he decided to act.

Now, it was time to make experiments on dogs. The animal shelter was really close to the President’s dwelling house. Having been picked from streets day after day, dogs were taken to this shelter. Poor animals were barking all night long; the President didn’t say much as knew about the solid personality of Instructor Erman, yet he was expressing his discomfort as kindly as possible, asking questions like “Hey, what’s going on there?” New instructors were included in the team. The process was really affecting everyone deeply. As a matter of fact, as a result of dealing with dogs excessively, one team member was going to change his sect, leaving Shafiism to turn into Hanafism. To crown it all, the animals were intravenously injected with ammonia one by one, once in every four hours, ceaselessly, day and night. As a result, the experiment turned into a multidimensional adventure.

As time went by, Halil was becoming really anxious. What if ammonia failed to affect the epilepsy threshold? What if the threshold didn’t go up as he predicted? “Oh God, how would I even go out in public!” he would say, eating his heart out… He was never going to experience such an exciting wait in his life again, and he was going to call that excitement “sweet” later on.

And then came the big day. All participants of the experiment were gazing upon Halil, excitingly watching the reaction he would give. Halil, however, focused his attention on the injector. The injector contained a substance called “cardiazol” that would trigger the epilepsy. He prayed, “God, please let the initial dose be exceeded!” He couldn’t stand still. His mouth went dry, he was gulping; his heart skipped a beat as he held his breath, time hung heavy on his hands.

He was never going to forget the deep breath he took as the injector slowly exceeded the limit he was looking for. Especially when the cardiazol dose quadrupled the initial one… That’s what pleasure really meant. Everyone Halil knew, all of his friends, buddies and students, all would know about this story…

That experiment was what sent Halil to America, making Instructor Erman a professor in quite a short while, turning the epilepsy mechanisms, the topic of the experiment, into the main focus of the physiology laboratory, and a valuable research partner, who assisted Instructor Erman during those years, was going to become a senior bureaucrat in the higher education system.

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