THE PRONOVE-BARTTER SYNDROME
In 1960, a team of medical scientists working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) identified a syndrome that affects the kidneys. A syndrome is “a group of symptoms that collectively indicate a disease, disorder, or other abnormal medical condition.”
The kidney is one of the body’s vital organs. A vital organ is one that performs an essential life function. Total failure of a vital organ will cause death. We have six vital organs. These are the brain, heart, lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys.
We have two kidneys. Their function is “to keep the blood clean and chemically balanced. Wastes in the blood come from the normal breakdown of active tissues, such as muscles, and from food. The body uses food for energy and self-repairs. After the body has taken what it needs from food, wastes are sent to the blood. If the kidneys do not remove them, these wastes build up in the blood and damage the body.”
Persons suffering from this syndrome have kidneys that fail to keep the blood chemically balanced. They lose excessive amounts of potassium. It’s a relatively rare but serious condition.
I wrote this entry simply to thank a medical historian for clarifying the origin of the syndrome’s name.
Dear Mr. Enersen,
I am a nephew of the late Dr. Pacita Pronove-Irreverre. She was the lead author of the paper that first described the condition commonly known as the Bartter Syndrome. As you know, naming rights typically belong to the lead author.
In June 2008, I successfully persuaded Wikipedia to include my aunt’s name in the Wiki entry for the Bartter Syndrome. As you also probably know, Wikipedia is edited by the user community. It is a system that ensures rigorous verification. My primary evidence consisted of the relevant entry found at your website.
Apart from expressing gratitude, I want to corroborate your detailed explanation with a firsthand account of my late-aunt’s narration about the incident. This is more trivia than anything but as a historian you might enjoy it for the life it brings to your tale.
Several years before my aunt died and definitely before I knew about the syndrome’s existence, she told me the corroborating story. Auntie Pat had narrated it to her other nephews and nieces as well. (She and her doctor husband had no children themselves.) Auntie Pat told me that after she realized that injustice had been done, she looked Fred Bartter in the eye and Fred was unable to maintain eye contact. There was a smile on her face when she narrated that.
You can picture the times. She was a diminutive Asian woman in a field populated and dominated by white American men. She was still new to the U.S. The medical paper was published in 1960, only several years after she arrived. We can speculate why she partnered with Bartter. He has a Wiki entry and it reveals that he was the son of American missionaries who were stationed in the Philippines. So our aunt, a Filipina, had a common link with him. She must have felt that she had found a friend at her place of employment, the NIH.
She maintained her association with him even after the incident. They published a second paper together. She even had her sister accompany Fred and his wife back to Baguio to locate the graveyard of his parents. When she did this, I am unsure of—I will check with my cousins if they know whether this occurred before or after the incident. She was a gentle and generous soul so either time frame was possible.
Mr. Enersen, we are grateful to you for coming up with the idea for your website. It helped us add a satisfying footnote to both medical and our family’s history. I am sure that future generations of other people will appreciate and thank you for creating such a resource.
On behalf of our extended family, I thank you.
P.S. Our family is preparing Dr. Pacita’s biographical sketch for Wikipedia as well.