The Gutsy Doctor

Barry’s breath was stinking. He looked severely ill. But he was waving the biopsy report in his hand with triumph and saying ‘I did it!’ His wife yelled at him ‘This is enough Barry. Take that damn medicine. Now!’

In 1984, Dr Barry Marshall, a gastroenterologist at Perth was working on the cure for deadly stomach ulcers. He and his colleague Dr Robin Warren had just made a startling discovery that could dramatically change the way ulcers were treated.

For over 200 years, stomach ulcers were believed to occur due to excessive stress or acidity. Ulcer patients fell so ill that many had their stomachs removed or bled until they died. Surgery was a painful resort and it rendered many as gastric cripples.

Barry and Robin examined hundreds of biopsies of ulcer and stomach cancer patients. They found the presence of a bacteria named Helicobacter Pylori in their stomach linings. And when these patients were given regular antibiotics, their ulcers vanished within no time.

But the senior gastro experts trashed their findings and research. The concept of a germ causing ulcers sounded ridiculous and weird for them.

Knowing that H. Pylori could not be infected into animals for testing, Barry finally decided to become the guinea pig himself.

First, he got an endoscopy done to establish that all was clear in his stomach. And then he mixed the H. Pylori from a biopsy into a broth and drank. Within days he was severely ill with gastritis. This time when a new test was done, the bacteria were found in his stomach.  

Barry now had his evidence. Much to his family’s relief, he took the antibiotic and recovered.  

Ulcers found a painless cure. Gastric cancers are now detected early.

And Dr Barry Marshall, Dr Robin Warren got the Noble Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2005.

Truth and gutsy conviction are an unstoppable force.


From the Discover Magazine

Dr Barry Marshall’s Nobel Acceptance Speech in 2005

This Story also finds a mention in ‘Putting Stories to Work’ by Shawn Callahan

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