Excerpt from The Physician of Pegasus: the Autobiography of Jennifer Keller

by Helen W.

The relief at not losing Rodney was almost overwhelming. But as we packed up our gear and headed back to the shuttlecraft, I realized that we'd gained something potentially as wonderful: the start of a methodology for ending the scourge of second childhood.

I recalled my briefings prior to my deployment to Atlantis. I was to be a staff physician for members of the expedition, nothing more, and to work to offset the 'cowboy' tendencies of Carson Beckett without losing his confidence. I'd agreed to this without hesitation; I'd always been, at heart, a conformist, and striven to please authority as much as possible given my early academic acceleration. Following his death, I had little doubt that the reason I'd been tapped to succeed Beckett was that the SGC felt I was reliable, cautious, and not particularly imaginative.

Among the many activities that were prohibited by the SGC was direct involvement in the medical care of most Pegasus natives, beyond the vaccination of populations exposed to Earth illnesses through contact mistakes and whatever progress we could make towards countering the effects of the Hoffan drug. But how could I not pursue a way of killing something that climbed inside people's brains?

As soon as we returned to Atlantis, I enlisted Dr. Phyllis Garland, a physicist with an undergraduate degree in molecular biology, to interpret the radiation readings we'd collected in the cavern. Having lost several relatives to Alzheimer's Disease, she was particularly enthusiastic about the prospects of eliminating something with a similar pathology. It took Phyllis very little time to figure out a way of producing what are now known as Miller-Garland particles, and by the end of the month we were ready to begin testing. Even Richard Woolsey was enthusiastically supportive.

And that's when things got complicated.

Ideally, our next step would have been to determine the responsible organism's responses to Miller-Garland particles at various stages of its life cycle prior to any human testing. Unfortunately, Ronon Dex's actions in the cavern, while understandable, had literally killed our best chance at establishing a research colony of the organism.

So, instead, we began to search for victims of second childhood, with Teyla and Ronon doing the majority of the recruitment, traveling with expedition nurses and technicians who performed interviews and preliminary diagnoses. Hundreds of people with a variety of forms of dementia and mental illness were interviewed before we encountered our first actual second childhood case, in the process dashing the hopes of people on a number of worlds as we enticed them with the promise of a cure, only to have to tell them that they or their loved ones were the wrong kind of ill. Far worse was the knowledge that many people screened suffered from conditions for which there were effective therapies on Earth or Atlantis but that policy prevented us from treating.

We brought our first native second childhood patient to Atlantis, and essentially followed the same procedure as we had with Rodney. Standard anesthesia was administered, and the trepanning was done in the most sterile, least invasive manner possible. Everything worked perfectly; we had our organism, and three days later our patient returned home fully cured.

It took us another month to find another victim; but, in the mean time, working with biologists Grace Fallino and Bruno O'Toole, we learned quite a bit about the organism and were able to design a more efficient, portable machine for producing Miller-Garland particles.

Once a second victim was found, we repeated the process, again with great success.

And then the floodgates opened. Not only were non-medical Atlantis teams suddenly bombarded with requests for treatment for a variety of ailments, but we began getting actual dial-ins, even with the gate address of Atlantis a tightly-held secret and our iris common knowledge. I don't know how many people perished because we could not confirm their identities, how many people with illnesses that we could actually cure we turned away due to SGC policy.

This time was especially hard for Teyla Emmagan, who argued that we had a moral duty to help those who came to us. She understood that our principle aim had been to develop a cure for second childhood that could be performed by the peoples of Pegasus themselves, but she argued vigorously that since we had opened ourselves up as a clinic, we should act as such. And if that required turning Atlantis into humanity's largest hospital, so be it; surely Earth was rich enough to undertake this, to carry through with what it had started.

Over the course of the next nine months, during which we turned away thousands of people seeking our help, we cured exactly three more cases of second childhood, and experienced one fatality. More and more I realized that, even if we made the Miller-Garland generators available to anyone who wanted one, and provided training, we would have no guarantee that it the treatment procedure would be used in appropriate situations, in sterile conditions and using safe anesthesia practices.

Slowly, it came to me. As wonderful as eliminating this one disease was, it wasn't what was needed. The medical knowledge held by the peoples of Pegasus was impressive, given their circumstances, with most adults knowing, for example, the habitats and uses of hundreds of medicinal herbs, how to set bones, and the basics of childbirth support. But there were things that we from Earth could teach; things that the richer half, at least, of my homeworld's population took for granted that didn't require vast amounts of equipment so much as basic modern medical knowledge.

What Pegasus needed was its own skilled doctors throughout its society. And for that, it needed a college of medicine accessible to peoples from all the disparate worlds of Pegasus, the poor as well as the prospering.

I knew I could start such an institution, but I had no idea how.

My real education was just beginning.


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