Boomers Accepted Normal … At Least for Body Temperature

The Boomer Generation was known for creating its own way and not accepting the norms that had existed in earlier generations. That, of course, is a generalization that is not entirely true, as boomer opinions on what was “normal” was as diverse as boomers themselves. However, one thing people agreed on without argument was that a “normal” body temperature was 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Some things were just accepted at face value.

The idea that we had a common normal body temperature came from Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich, a German doctor, in 1851. Taking the armpit temperature of 25,000 patients, he deduced that 98.6 was the average. The world has been deferring to his results ever since; well, until recently, anyway. At least since the 1970s it has been known by the medical profession that a normal, resting body temperature varies from person to person. They also had long discovered that body temperatures are different for men and women. Therefore, normal body temperature should be interpreted as a range rather than an absolute … sort of like the Boomer Generation.

Now comes word from a study by Stanford University that since the 19th Century, our body temperature has been decreasing to the point that a person registering a normal 98.6 degrees one hundred and fifty years ago would now have a normal temperature shift of about a degree and a half less today. Their study took records of more than 89,000 Civil War soldiers as a base line. In a 2014 study, researchers had previously found that our body temperature has decreased since 1970. The Stanford research suggests that data from the 2014 study was consistent with their findings.

Many factors may have to contributed this change in body temperature, and boomers benefited from all of them. Most notably among these factors are that we have vastly changed our environment with heat and air conditioning, as well as developing warmer clothing — and, perhaps key among possible reasons, modern medicine has decreased incidents of common infections and inflammations, the chief cause of fevers. Others point to a more sedentary lifestyle, diet and weight gain as contributing factors.

Conversely, a fever was, and still is, by much of the medical profession, considered to occur when body temperature has topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This, too, has been updated to a range today. The importance of establishing a fever threshold is that an increase in body temperature has long been held as an indicator of health. That is why every doctor visit begins with a check of temperature.

None of any possible controversies over temperature ranges mattered in the days of boomers. As such, the “normal” body temperature “fact” made its way into pop culture. From the 1950s to the 1970s, boomers heard songs make reference to body temperature.

98.6, Keith, 1967
In 1967, Tony Powers and George Fischoff wrote the song, 98.6. It was performed by Barry James Keefer — known as Keith on record. The Tokens provided backup vocals, and the single reached number seven on the Billboard charts. It became Keith’s biggest hit. Later, Keith became the vocalist for Frank Zappa’s band for a couple of years. How is that for baby-boomer normal?

The song uses 98.6 to make a statement on normalcy. The lyrics state, Hey 98.6 it’s good to have you back again. In other words, things are back to normal in his relationship. The temperature norm is a given.

Fever, Peggy Lee, 1958
Written by Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell in 1956, the first recording of the song that year was by Little Willie John. It peaked at number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100. Peggy Lee released her version in 1958, reaching number eight on Billboard’s Hot 100. It became her signature song.

Now you’ve listened to my story
Here’s the point that I have made
Chicks were born to give you fever
Be it Fahrenheit or Centigrade

The song, sung from a female point of view by Peggy Lee, has her speaking to a man about the effect he has on her body temperature, but concludes with telling him he can catch the fever from her as well.

Burning Love, Elvis Presley, 1972
Written by Dennis Linde, the original recording was released by Arthur Alexander in 1972. That same year, Elvis picked it up at the urging of his manager, with Linde playing the opening guitar riffs himself. It became Elvis’ last Top 10 hit.

Ooh, ooh, ooh
I feel my temperature rising
Help me, I’m flaming
I must be a hundred and nine

The song, like Fever, uses an increase in temperature as an indicator of a flaming-hot love. This time, though, a specific temperature — and a high one at that — is mentioned.

Hot Blooded, Foreigner, 1978
Written by Lou Gramm and Mick Jones of the band, Foreigner, it was released in 1972.

Well, I’m hot blooded, check it and see
I got a fever of a hundred and three

Again, a song cites body temperature, and again, in a fever mode. Like the songs before it, this increase in fever-level temperature is discussed as a good thing, an indicator not of ill health but of high passion. It was a big hit for them, though of little interest to Mister Boomer.

When Mister Boomer was six years old, body temperature became a serious matter when he ran an extraordinarily high fever. By nightfall, his parents were so concerned that he was rushed to a hospital emergency room. There, his young body was literally packed with ice to lower his body temperature. Once he had returned to an acceptable level, he was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with tonsillitis. The next morning, he had his tonsils removed. For Mister Boomer, this episode of abnormal body temperature marked the first time he would spend the night without his parents. He remembers staying awake most of the night, staring out his hospital window, as wild rabbits hopped in and out of the hospital lights at the far edge of the parking lot. The next afternoon, tonsils removed and body temperature restored, he was taken home.

How about you, boomers? Do you have a person connection story to normal body temperature in your past history?

Boomers Watched as Transplants Saved Lives

The list of technological, engineering and medical marvels that were introduced during the Boomer Years is truly incredible. We bore witness to true history in the making. A case in point is human organ transplants. It was a subject hardly on the radar of boomers and their parents after the war, yet by the end of the Baby Boom, advances in procedures and treatments were in the headlines.

Human skin grafting experiments were conducted as far back as the 16th century, but experiments in animal and human organ transplants didn’t begin until the 18th century. It took until the mid-twentieth century for breakthroughs that resulted in the first successful transplants.

During WWII, the U.S. Navy saw a great need for donated tissue. Beginning in the early 1800s, tissue grafting was generally accomplished by transferring a portion of skin tissue from one part of the body to another. Battle wounds and ship fires didn’t always allow for that contingency, so in 1949, the Navy established the first tissue bank. But organ transplants were a different story.

The heyday of medical breakthroughs for organ transplants came in the 1950s and ’60s:

• 1954 saw the first successful kidney transplant
• 1963, the first liver and lung transplants
• 1966, the first successful pancreas transplant

In 1967, the world watched and held its collective breath as Dr. Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful heart transplant in South Africa, though the patient ultimately lived only another 18 days. Coverage of the operation was akin to that of a space launch, with boomer families becoming familiar with all the involved parties before, during and after the historic operation. For the first time, there was a ray of hope for chronically ill heart patients. The first U.S. heart transplant followed one month later, in January of 1968. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. heart transplant, boomers.

As can be expected, the reaction around the country ran the spectrum from excitement at the scientific breakthroughs to condemnation that doctors were “playing God.” Boomers and their families watched as the drama unfolded.

In the 1970s, the discovery of immunosuppressant drugs — in particular, Cyclosporine in 1978 — greatly assisted in stopping patients’ bodies from rejecting transplanted organs, extending life.

As the legal, moral and ethical questions of human organ transplanting became more contentious, Congress passed the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act in 1968. The bill was meant to clarify and supplant the various laws that had cropped up on the state level. It permitted any adult to become an organ donor, and, in lieu of a will, any deceased person’s surviving spouse or remaining relative to make that choice. The bill covered the donation of organs, tissue and eyes. All states adopted the original version. It was amended in 1984, at which time the buying and selling of human organs was banned; then again in 1987 and 2006 to streamline the process of donating to address the growing needs for human transplants.

It seems quite remarkable to Mister Boomer that as a generation we watched human organ transplants begin at an experimental stage to where we are today. That is not to say the operations don’t carry a high risk or that they have become routine, but from the trickle of transplants that began in the 1950s, today we see more than 30,000 organ transplants per year.

Traditionally, especially during the Boomer Years, organ donations came from deceased individuals. In 2001, however, for the first time living donors exceeded that of deceased donors. The U.S. allows for living donations of one kidney, one or two lobes of the liver, a lung or part of a lung, part of the pancreas, or part of the intestines.

Transplants are indeed extending and saving lives, and boomers watched its progress happen in real time. The demand for organs to transplant is continuing to increase as the number of donors lags behind. Many states, such as Mister Boomer’s state, make the donation of vital organs after death as easy as a checkbox on a driver’s license renewal form. Mister B urges every boomer to take a look at what the process is in your state.

Did you know anyone who had a transplant during your boomer years? Are you listed to become a donor now, boomers?