It's an incredible time to be alive, especially considering the alternative.  Today (09 Feb 1998), a friend of mine spent about nine hours on the operating table.  He received a lung transplant because cystic fibrosis (CF) was destroying his original set.  He came through OK, and will be in Intensive Care for three days or so.
Think about this for a minute; it's a little too easy to just say 'That's nice' and go on about your business.  Transplants and bypasses are routine topics of conversation these days, but let's think about what's involved and how important this is, not just to one person's life, but to our entire society.  A surgical team opened up a living person (opened him WAY up), cut out his lungs, and replaced them with the lungs of an unfortunate but much-appreciated donor.  Then he was put back together.  His body will heal and come to accept the new organs.  His blood will flow through them, and his immune system be will be 'tuned' to prevent rejection of this other person's parts.  It is an understatement to say that less than a century ago, this was the stuff of fantasy and horror.
Mankind has been living indoors for several thousand years, but only a hundred years ago a pneumothorax ('sucking chest wound' open to the atmosphere) meant death in an hour.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  Today, surgeons deliberately recreated that fatal wound on a grand scale (they made an opening big enough to get lungs in and out, right?) just so they could fix a bigger problem.
During the Civil War, countless limbs were lost to relatively small wounds.  The problem was, there was no way to re-establish blood flow to the injured limb, so it was amputated to prevent gangrene.  Carrel & Guthrie introduced the first useful vascular surgery techniques in 1906.  Today, vascular surgeons deliberatley severed the pulmonary arteries and veins of one person, and sutured them to the severed vessels of another person.  Blood is already flowing through the conjoined vessels, and the stitches holding them together will dissolve when no longer needed.
Antibiotics, anesthesia, blood support, infection control- none of these technologies existed in useful form until fifty years ago, a small step back in our human history of thousands of years.  Operations of this depth were basically impossible (and fatal when attempted) before each of these tools came into use.
 This is just a single example how quickly the world is improving (in some arenas).  The amount of information being added to the book of human knowledge is staggering.  The lifestyle changes man has made in the past century outweigh all such accomplishments of previous recorded history.  I won't even go into the significance of the Internet; since you're reading this I don't need to.  Sit back for a minute, and reflect on how different your life is from that of your grandfather's or even your father's. Hey... put that gun down... it's going to be okay...I was trying to cheer you up a little...

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