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Was It Ferritin?

Date: 23-Jan-2019

I was born with a Y chromosome that had CHEMISTRY writ large on it. Dad inculcated that by obtaining a University gold medal in the subject. He absorbed so much of chemistry that he started exuding it in the form of lessons to his students. As if that was not enough,he authored a book also. To his students he imparted knowledge of Chemistry, to his only son he donated the Y which lay at the end of CHEMISTRY.

My mother had X and X to donate. More than chromosomes, they represented crossed out option of any knowledge of matters scientific. Chemistry has no X in it, just one Y.  That was her logic. Had it been meant for girls, spellings would be Xemistry.

I believe, in my case, my X dominated my Y. Chemically.

Chemistry should start and end with H2O. That is simple and understandable. May be O2 and CO2 can be added to the comfort list. All very basic and must for life cycle. O2 goes in, CO2 comes out. Simple? Yes, unless you want to know where the C came from. Atmosphere has 21% Oxygen and CO2 - a mere 0.04%. Maybe we are the Gods equipment to convert O2 to CO2 till they level out around 11% each. Be ready to add that much amount of C to O2, without asking where the C came from. Come to think of it – we are not consuming O2, it goes in and comes out – we are just adding C to it, from wherever. Still, we don’t have blood group C- or C+. C- people would be inefficient machines, they would inhale O2 and exhale O2.

I have no idea who invented Periodic Table. Or why. It has full list of all the elements that trouble us. It also has details of their molecular weights, valency, name of parents, cost in international market, poison quotient, recipe and many more things that I don’t know. There are many blocks in the Periodic Table that just help in blocking the mind.  I spent my early youth trying to memorise how to identify various salts in lab from their color, smell, taste and irritation to skin, eyes and nostrils. After two years of hard work and during the finals, every candidate was handed the salt along with the name and tests to be performed. Period.

Admission to medical college should have been the end of Chemistry. But just as body is adding C to O2, medical college added Bio to Chemistry, making it even more complicated - Biochemistry. They were trying to explain how and why the body is adding C to O2. But if I had survived more than 17 years without knowing that, what was the compulsion now. From Periodic Table, things turned to Cycles – Kreb’s cycle, Urea cycle, Atlas cycle, Hero cycle and many more. As if they were trying to make cyclists out of us instead of doctors. They were busy making us practice how to measure urea in blood, proteins in urine, blood in stools, salt in sweat – all with the help of test tubes and acids and salts. Intelligent people in Corporates were inventing machines that just need a drop of blood or urine to print out all the information about the person, including Aadhaar Card number.

First class test in Biochemistry coincided with blood donation camp in the college. Questions asked by medical team at the camp were much easier to answer – Are you drunk? Do you have syphilis? Is  your age more than 65years? Compare this with – Explain the steps involved in production of Adenotriphosphate and how much energy is stored in one ATP? Blood donation came with added advantages of a banana, bottle of milk, a certificate and above all –heroic feeling which one can flaunt. Compare that with one hour of misery and a marks sheet that can never be flaunted. So, I donated blood and waited for the test time to be over. Then I walked up to the HOD with one sleeve up rolled, cotton swab at the puncture site and explained that patients needed blood more than I needed to appear for the test.   I was given pass marks as compensation.

I had to appear for the next test. Question was – describe the metabolism of iron in detail. Answer would entail details of why we eat iron, how does intestine absorb iron, do we become magnetic if we eat more iron, how to prevent rusting of iron in body – or things like that. I had no clue. I looked towards Sharni, boy sitting next to me. He was thinking hard and was positioning himself to start writing. I promised him to experiment with metabolism of beer in the evening if he let me copy metabolism of iron. Agreed. He positioned his sheet so that I could copy.

 “Iron is stored in the body as Ferritin” he wrote. Ditto I wrote.

 “Ferritin is the storage form of Iron in the body” came next. I had few doubts, but I wrote the same.

“Body stores Iron as Ferritin”. I looked at him in a questioning manner.

He looked back at me and asked, “Do you know better than that?”. No, I did not. Still I decided not to continue with the word game.

When the result came, Sharni had cleared the test. I had not. I am still surviving without knowing what my body is doing to Iron. That did not make me anaemic either.

Sept 26, 2018.


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