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The Discovery of Penicillin By Emily Williams

It was a cloudy day in Ayrshire, Scotland in April, and Allen Bay was outside with his 12 year old daughter Alice, his 8 year old son Caleb, and his wife Abigail. They were all about to play Hide and Seek together. Before they started to play, Allen picked up Cal eb, put him on his shoulder, and ran around the outside of their house acting like an airp lane. Caleb was bouncing back and forth, smiling, and laughing like he could be on his Pa’s shoulders the whole day. Abigail was just watching with a big smile on her face. “Papa, Papa, it’s my turn now!” Alice said loudly. “Okay,” Allen replied while putting Caleb back on the ground. Caleb had a frown on his face, but he knew that he had to let his sister have a tur n. Allen picked up Alice and did the same thing he did to Caleb to Alice. Alice was just a s happy as Caleb was, she was smiling, laughing, bouncing back and forth, and hoping she would be on her Pa’s shoulders for a long time. Allen started getting tired so he put Alice back on the ground. Caleb and Alice both ran and hugged him. Then Abigail walke d over and joined their family hug. A few moments later, Abigail asked, “Who would like to play Hide and Seek?” “Me!” Caleb and Alice said at the same time. “Why not?” Allen said. “Yay! I will count back from 40,” Caleb said while going behind one of their trees with his eyes closed. “Forty, thirty-nine, thirty-eight... Three, two, one, ready or not here I come!” Caleb yelled from behind a tree. He started walking around their yard looking for one of them. Alice was in their small shed, Abigail was behind a bush, and Allen was behind their hor se carriage that he and his wife got soon after their marriage a couple of years ago. Alle n felt pains in his throat, but he assumed it was just a sore throat. Allen started coughing, and Caleb heard him while he was walking around their y ard. Caleb went by the back of the horse carriage and saw his Pa coughing. “Are you okay Pa?” Caleb asked. “Yes I’m fine, I just need a drink of water.” Allen went to the well nearby their house, and got some water. His throat didn’t feel any better. Allen went inside and rested for a few minutes until his family came back inside fr om finishing their game of Hide and Seek.

The next day, Allen was getting ready to go to his job as a police officer. He still w asn’t feeling like himself, and he didn’t want to go to work even though he was usually e xcited to go. He still felt pains in his throat, he was still coughing, and was very tired eve


n though he had a good rest the night before. He contacted his boss Bill talking into his new squad car radio and told him that he wouldn’t be able to make it to work. Allen was disappointed and happy at the same time. He was disappointed because he wouldn’t ge t to talk to or see his co-workers; and he was happy because he didn’t have to deal with his worst enemy in the world, Kevin. They were enemies because he was chosen to be the sheriff, and Allen wasn’t. They used to be good friends in High School, but that all ch anged after Kevin was chosen to be sheriff. Allen decided that he just had a sore throat, so he decided to rest at home, and hoped to feel better by tomorrow. The next day, Allen felt even worse than he did the day before, so he stayed hom e from work again. Abigail, Caleb, and Alice were worried about him, because he looked awful, sounded awful, and could hardly get out of bed. Allen never used to act like that. Usually he had a good sense of humor, made his family laugh, and was very energetic. Abigail really would have liked to stay home with him and make sure he was okay, but s he needed to go to her job at a clothes factory so she could get the little amount of salar y she needed per hour to take care of her family. Caleb and Alice walked to school, eve n though they wanted to stay home with their Pa as well. “Are you sure you’re okay to stay home all day by yourself?” Abigail asked him. Allen started to cough and said in a hoarse voice, “I’ll be fine.” “Okay,” Abigail began to say unconvincingly, “I’ll be home as soon as I can... Lov e you.” She walked out the door. Two weeks had gone by, and Allen felt even worse. His family and him started to worry. Since Abigail was at work, and Caleb and Alice were at school, he decided to go t o the doctor. While he was walking to his doctor’s office, he hoped that he was okay. He finally arrived at his doctor’s office and sat in the waiting room shaking nervou sly. A few minutes later, he heard his doctor say, “Allen Bay, you can come into my ro om now.” After they both entered the room, Dr. Price said to him, “Good morning Allen, y ou don’t sound like yourself today. When you are here for check ups, you don’t have tha t scratchy voice. Tell me about what’s been happening these past few weeks.” Allen replied with a raspy voice, “My throat has been hurting, I have a headache, I am always exhausted, and I am sweating more than I usually do. Also before I started f eeling like this, my throat hurt a bit, but I thought it was just a sore throat that sometimes you can get for a day or two. I didn’t know it was going to lead to this.” “That doesn’t seem very fun, let’s see what we got here,” the doctor said while ch ecking his temperature, “looks like you have a bit of a fever... It’s almost up to 103 degre es fahrenheit.” Allen’s face turned pale white, and he looked very worried. He checked a few other things; his blood pressure, his joints for any swelling, and he listened to the so unds of his heart. On his way out the door, he said, “With this data I just collected, I will t ry and figure out what has been happening, I’ll be right back.” Allen waited nervously in the room while he sat on one of the chairs in the waiting room, and tapped his foot on the floor. Tap, Tap, Tap. He waited, and waited, and waite


d, and it felt like hours have gone by before his doctor finally came back... But the scary thing was, he came into the room with a depressed look on his face. He talked with a quiet voice and said, “Unfortunately you have a very common di sease called Rheumatic fever.” Allen just stared at him with a blank face because he never heard of Rheumatic f ever before. He only heard of a plain ‘fever,’ but not Rheumatic fever. Allen asked him n ervously, “What is Rheumatic fever?” “Rheumatic fever is caused by a bacteria called streptococcus that is commonly f ound in the blood. Some signs for Rheumatic fever are: swelling of joints, a fever that ca n get up to 103 degrees fahrenheit, a headache, increased sweating, etc. It seems like y ou have most of the symptoms. The worst part about it, is that Rheumatic Fever can be fatal because it causes serious inflammation to the valves of the heart, which means it c an cause heart problems. It was also very common in the Great War between 1914 and 1919 involving Russia, Germany, Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, and a few other coun tries. And unfortunately many people died from many illnesses including Rheumatic feve r. It was a miracle for a few people who have actually survived this illness. I wish we had something to treat this illness for you, but we unfortunately do not. I would also recomm end you to stay out of work, and instead staying at home and getting lots of rest.” He re plied. Allen was speechless about what he had just heard. Will he ever have his regular life back, since there is nothing that can help treat this illness? He wondered if he would get his family sick, and he didn’t know how to tell his family the bad news. “So I can’t go back to my job for a while?” “No, but if you start feeling better you can go back to your job of being a police off icer, but as of right now, you need to head home and get plenty of rest.” Allen felt his eyes burning, almost about to burst into tears trying to hold it in, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t believe what he had just been told, and didn’t know what to say. His doctor handed him a handkerchief to wipe his tears and he told Allen, “Just g o home, get lots of rest, and I will check back with you soon.” They both walked out of th e room in shock without saying another word. Allen came home, and soon after Kevin, his enemy, stopped by and asked him, “Good evening Allen, I heard you have not been feeling well the past few weeks. What happened?” Allen was shocked that Kevin actually cared about him when he was sick, they didn’t like each other while they were competing against who was going to be sheriff. Allen replied, “Well I just got back from the doctor a few minutes ago, and he said that I have an illness called Rheumatic fever.” “What is Rheumatic fever?” Kevin asked. “Well,” Allen began, “my doctor said that Rheumatic fever is caused by a bacteria called streptococcus that is commonly found in the blood. Some signs for Rheumatic fev er are: swelling of joints, a fever that can get up to 103 degrees fahrenheit, a headache, increased sweating, etc. It seems like you have most of the symptoms. The worst part a bout it, is that Rheumatic fever can be fatal because it causes serious inflammation to th


e valves of the heart, which means it can cause heart problems. It was also very commo n in the Great War.” “Oh, I am very sorry. I hope you get better, we miss you at the police station.” Ke vin sounded heartbroken. “Thank you.” Allen said sadly. “Well, I should leave and let you rest, hope we see you soon back at the station.” Kevin said. “Thank you for stopping by.” Allen said. Kevin opened the door of Allen’s house, went outside, and closed the door. Allen was still confused of what happened to make hi m come over and ask him if he was okay. But that thought soon left his mind, he was jus t thinking about what would happen to his family if he left them. Allen went and sat on th e couch because he was exhausted. Soon after Kevin left and a few minutes of relaxing on the couch, his family arrive d from work or school. He said to all of them while feeling like his heart was going to bre ak, “I went to my doctor today, and he told me why I have been feeling this way for more than a few weeks now.” “Papa, please tell us!” Caleb said very curiously, not even letting him finish what he was going to say. Allen coughed and said, “Caleb, don’t worry, I am telling you right now.” After a fe w moments of silence, Alen continued with a sigh, “My doctor said I have an illness that could be fatal called Rheumatic Fever.” “What does fatal mean?” Caleb asked. “It means it is possible for my life to end because of Rheumatic Fever.” Allen repli ed full of sorrow. “My doctor told me that there...” Allen began saying feeling like he was about to b urst into tears, and then there was a few moments of silence... “There is a big chance th at I don’t have much longer to live, because Rheumatic fever can cause serious heart c onditions.” Abigail, Caleb, and Alice all started sobbing as well. Later that night, they didn’t mention anything about the conversation they had ear lier. They ate dinner, and played a new board game that just came out called Scrabble, while listening to the radio like they usually did every night. Allen heard the phone. Ring Ring. He picked it up, and it was his doctor Stephen. “Good evening Allen,” he began, “I have some great news to share with you.” “What is it?” Allen asked curiously. “Could you stop by my office, I would like to tell you in person if that is okay.” “Sure,” Allen replied, “We will be there in about 20 minutes.” “Okay, see you soon.” Stephen said. They both hung up the phone, and Allen told his family that they had to go to his doctor’s office because he had some great news to share with him. Their whole family got into their horse carriage and were on their way to Allen’s d octor’s office seconds after Allen heard that he had some great news to share with him.


It seemed like everyone was wondering what the great news could be, because everyon e was talking about what they thought it was. A few moments later, they arrived at the office and Stephen was waiting there. “Good evening, what is the great news?” Allen asked him. “Good evening to you as well, there is a new drug that has just come out for hum ans called Penicillin, and there is a chance it could save your life.” Stephen said full of jo y. “How?” Allen asked. “Well this drug, or medicine, can help treat Pneumonia, Scarlet Fever, Rheumatic Fever, and many others. The scientist we all know Alexander Fleming and his assistant, discovered a bacteria in his petri dish because his lab is always messy. Fleming didn’t w ant to clean it up, so a few days later he went back to the same dish to just look at it, an d they realized a different kind of bacteria went into the dish, and the bacteria was gone. Then scientist started learning about how to make a new drug that would kill this bacteri a called streptococcus found in many illnesses. We need someone with an illness with t he bacteria streptococcus to try out this new drug, Penicillin.” His doctor said. Allen started smiling, and jumping up and down with joy. His family was right ther e next to him when his doctor had just told him the great news, and knowing that there might be a miracle, it was a very cheery moment for all of them. They all started jumping up and down with joy together. Allen realized that he wondered something, so he asked him, “What do you mea n first human?” “The drug was already tested on mice, and a few humans for a few days with the same bacteria that causes Rheumatic fever, which is streptococcus. And it seemed to g et rid of the bacteria pretty well. So now we need to test Penicillin on more humans to s ee if it works properly. Some scientists came here and dropped by a syringe with the ne w drug right before I called you. We are still open this late because Penicillin was just m ade. I was the first person out of our office to call any of our patients, so I decided to call and ask if you could come and be another human to test it out.” Allen was so surprised that he chose to call him first, and without hesitation he sa id, “Yes, yes, yes, I would love to test it out!” “Okay, come on into my office.” Stephen replied. The rest of his family waited in the waiting room and they all hoped that this new drug, Penicillin would work. “Will it hurt?” Allen asked while Stephen pulled out an object with sharp point at t he top. “No, I have been told that it’s just a little pinch, it doesn’t hurt too bad.” Allen didn’ t say anything, but he hoped he was right. “Now let’s take the shot, shall we?” He replied while pulling up the sleeve on his s hirt. “Wait,” Allen began asking nervously, “What is that?”


“It’s called a syringe,” he began, “the fluid inside here goes into the body, and is s upposed to travel around your body killing bacteria, like streptococcus, to make your illn ess go away instead of suffering from it.” Allen was amazed how a tiny amount of liquid could possibly do that, well I guess he would figure out soon if it will actually work. Then Dr. Price slowly put an injection in his arm. Allen felt a pinch, but his arm felt better than he thought it would feel after a needle like object being put into it. After the injection he said, “Call me, or stop by in 48 hours and tell me how you fe el then.” “Okay, thank you so much!” Allen replied cheerfully. “Talk to you soon.” He said while Allen was walking out his office door. Allen entered the waiting room, and his wife Abigail gave him a big hug, while say ing to him, “I hope you get better, you can’t leave me.” Allen also gave his children a hug on their way into the horse carriage... And before they knew it, they arrived home. 48 hours have gone by, and Allen felt so much better than he did before. One at a time he picked up Caleb and Alice, and put them on his shoulder and ran around their house acting like an airplane. He always used to do that before he got sick. Allen and hi s family were much happier now that he was back to his fun and happy self. “I can’t believe that tiny vaccine saved my life!” Allen said to his wife, Abigail. “It’s a miracle,” she replied while giving him a kiss, “I love you.” The next day, everyone took the day off of school or work to spend time with their happier Pa. Allen and his family stopped by his doctor’s office and told him that he felt m uch better. He also thanked him for all the things he did to save his life. The next day Allen and his family went back to their normal life. Abigail went back to her job at the factory, and Caleb and Alice went back to school. Allen went back to his job as a police officer, and told Kevin and all his other co-workers the story of the life sa ving drug Penicillin. And they were all so happy, even Kevin. Kevin and Allen started talk ing to each other more, and became good friends again.

Author’s Note


This story is based on a historical event which is now known as, The Discovery o f Penicillin, which took place in the late 1920’s. As of right now, Penicillin treats Typhoid f ever; serious infection that affects the stomach and intestines, Lyme Disease; an infecti on caused by ticks, Abscesses; damage to your teeth roots and jaws, Rheumatic Fever; an infection caused by streptococcus which causes swelling and pain in the joints, sore throat, and problems with the heart. It can also treat many other illnesses and infections as well. The Discovery of Penicillin, started when Alexander Fleming discovered a bacteri a called streptococcus. The bacteria streptococcus was found by Fleming in September of 1928 in Ayrshire, Scotland. Alexander Fleming went on vacation for two weeks, and l eft his messy lab exactly the way it was when he left. While he was gone, a rare piece o f fungus mold came into his lab from a window. The mold was called penicillium, and it l anded onto his messy culture plate that he once smeared a bacteria called staphylococ cus onto. The mold then became to grow slowly because the temperature started to dro p. Then the temperature went back up and the bacteria began to grow rapidly, except th e one spot where the penicillium was. He hypothesised that the penicillium contained so mething that stopped bacteria from growing. He realized that he discovered something t hat could change our lives forever. That is how he discovered this life saving bacteria by accident. Eventually people began to make the first drug in history called Penicillin. It saved many lives in World War II, because many soldiers needed something that woul d heal them from their deadly infections. The first human to try the drug was a woman. She had a sore throat, pain in his joints, and problems with his heart. The first time they made Penicillin, you had to take it by a vaccine, so she got the vaccine in her arm and s oon after she became much better. Soon after many scientists were influenced by Flemi ng’s discovery, and began to make different drugs for other illnesses. This discovery cha nged our lives forever. Without this drug many of us wouldn’t be alive because eventuall y our ancestors would’ve gotten too sick, and they probably would’ve passed away befo re our parents or ourselves were born.

- Emily Williams

Bibliography


Bankston, John. Alexander Fleming and the Story of Penicillin. Bear, Delaware: Mitchell Lane, 2002. Print. This book was about how Fleming discovered the bacteria stre ptococcus, and how Penicillin became the first life saving drug. It also had a timel ine explaining what Alexander Fleming’s life was like. This source helped me get i mportant dates, places, and important details of how Fleming discovered the bact eria streptococcus. Gottfried, Ted. Alexander Fleming Discoverer of Penicillin. Danbury, Connecticut: Groiler Publishing, 1997. Print. This book had many words with their definitions th at I could use in my story to make my story more detailed. It also included photos of Alexander Fleming himself, a Penicillin mold, and many different kinds of bacte ria. These photos helped me understand what Fleming, the Penicillin mold, and s ome different kinds of bacteria looked like. "The History of Penicillin." About.com Inventors. Web. 15 May 2012. <http://inventors.about.com/od/pstartinventions/a/Penicillin.htm> This website ex plained important facts about the history of Penicillin like important places, and ot her important people. This source was useful to my story because I used that pla ce to tell where the Discovery of Penicillin took place. "Penicillin: The First Miracle Drug." Penicillin: The First Miracle Drug. Web. 17 May 2012. <http://herbarium.usu.edu/fungi/funfacts/penicillin.htm>. This website expla ins what an antibiotic is, why Penicillin was once known as a “miracle drug,” and i mportant dates. This source was useful to my story because I used all of these fa cts in my story.


Emily's Historical Fiction