Friday, December 21, 2012

The Physiology and Spirituality of the Living Dead

Decaying, putrefied flesh, dead necrotic tissue, dangling gangrene infested limbs.... glassy, foggy lifeless orbits, devoid of life- a cold, pungent corpse is apparently is re-animated by an unknown force or biological drive.......
The undead, otherwise known as zombies,  are everywhere in popular culture: books, television, and movies.  But, you need not go to the theater to see the living dead- they are closer than you realize...... 

The Physiology of the Zombie:

The introduction of  tainted biological fluid must contaminate the host victim.  Most commonly the initial contamination is introduced by means of a flesh wound such as that which may come from a bite or scratch from a infected individual.  Contamination  rarely occurs in the healthcare setting, but when it does it is usually  inadvertently through a needle stick or contact with bodily fluids during lab testing.  As with any virus or contagious illness, there is a period of incubation in which the victim appears asymptomatic.  Nevertheless, while the person may feel physically healthy on the outside, the contagion works behind the scenes at the cellular level creating havoc in the body's systems.

The very first initial symptom appears to be an elevated temperature as the body attempts to fight off infection. This is reflected in a fever- mild at first. The fever does not respond to medication.  Lymph glands may be swollen and  tender to the touch.  Ironically, though the body gives the appearance of  having a cold or flu, instead of the usual fatigue and lethargy that accompanies the flu, the individual may experience an increase in energy.  The metabolism is elevated as the thyroid works harder to fight the illness. Blood pressure increases as well as the heart rate.  Respiration becomes more rapid. The body's  attempt to thwart the contagion is unsuccessful.   This may give the affected individual an initial burst of energy, deceptively it may appear as if the patient is on the recovery as the metabolism, thyroid and immune system  work in overdrive.  Not long after the early stages of infection, the victim will exhibit symptoms similar to hyperthyroidism.  This will include increased appetite, anxiety, mild aggression, sleeplessness and intolerance to heat.  The mixed set of symptoms that follow the initial fever may mask the extent of internal damage caused by the contagion and often lead to a false diagnosis.

As the contagion   circulates within the bloodstream, all body organs and tissues are eventually affected, from the cellular level to the organ systems.  As the infection spreads, the effect on rapidly dividing cells is the first obvious sign.  Similar to the effects of radiation sickness or chemotherapy  in with the invading contaminant indiscriminately attacks the rapidly regenerating cells: healthy and non healthy alike, the same is true of the contagion. The rapidly dividing cells  of the scalp, mucus membranes and nerves, are the first to succumb to the infection as it begins its indiscriminately attack all cells in a similar way.  Hair will become brittle, thin, dull and some loss of hair will occur. Skin cells will become dry, raw and irritated.  Skin will become irritated, cracked and dry.   Mucus membranes lining the mouth, esophagus and stomach will become irritated, raw and slough off- causing irritation and tenderness  at first, and thereafter extreme gastrointestinal discomfort and bleeding.  As the body systems are affected and subsequently destroyed, pain and fatigue will set in.  Nerves will be affected in a similar fashion as ALS.  As the nerves progressively become damaged and die, loss of function is experienced.  This is first observed as a heightened sensitivity in the form of pain, tingling, involuntary twitches and numbness.  As nerves completely die, there is a loss of feeling altogether.  Yet, as opposed to ALS or traditional paralysis from CNS injury, the dying cells and cell tissue actually physically die- they experience cell death and become necrotic- resulting in furthering the infections.  As the body organs and fluids becomes septic, and the toxicity spreads throughout the body,  the body tissues decay giving the characteristic of the typical sterotypical zombie appearance: mottled necrotic skin that is easily bruised, injured and infected.  Internally, the organs cease to function as the cells become necrotic and  die.  Internal bleeding occurs throughout the body and the old, putrefied, congealed, thick, sludge-like black blood and dead cells is eliminated by the body from every orifice imaginable as wastes.  The slick, putrefied mix of wastes gives the zombie its characteristic decayed odor and disheveled, unclean appearance.

Needless to say, the brain does not escape damage from infection.  Apparently the higher functions of the brain are the first to experience the effects of impairment.  Initially the mental impairment is subtle.  Complete memory loss and purposeful  thought is eventually lost as the brain tissue becomes necrotic and shrinks.  Eventually all intentional and purposeful activity and thought is gone, leaving only a fragment of the functioning hind brain.  Mentally the person's capacity is  analogous to a persistent vegetative state, yet the body is inexplicably  animated and continues to physically function by minimum instinct and nerve impulses similar to that exhibited by lower life forms.  As a result, the individual is automated only by a basic instinct and basic physical sparks of electrical impulses.  Clinically and biologically, the person may be defined as alive simply because the brain is functioning at the most basic level.  Nevertheless, it might be argued that such an individual is legally dead in that  brain death has occurred in that there is no possibility of recovery and there is no purposeful brain activity.  An EKG most likely would reveal a flat line. Obviously putrefaction and contamination of the body's organs renders them useless for the purpose of donation.  The senseless aggression and bestial behavior makes the infected a danger to society, and therefore require containment.  The time line of the progression of the illness varies. 

Spirituality of the Living Dead:

A necrotic, shrunken brain- filled with useless, putrefied nonfunctioning brain matter. A stinking mush of dead cells and puss- incapable of thought whatsoever.  Nerve synapses are dead and destroyed.  The head is simply a shell that houses a walnut sized brain stem- functioning with minimal  activity.  Movement is the product of purposeless reflexes, and synaptic pulses guided by basic instinct.  As far as a mind- anything that resembled a personality is long gone.  Just as the body eventually deteriorates, the mind also disintegrates.  As far as the spirit?  The soul?  That no longer exists either.

An argument can be made that the concept of the living dead is nothing new. In fact there are a number of references to the living dead in the bible. A passage from Ephesians, a new testament book written by Paul, the apostle, states  "As for you, don't you remember how you used to exist? Corpses, dead in life, buried by transgressions, wandering the course of this perverse world.  You were the offspring of the prince of the power of the air- oh, how he owned you, just as he still controls those living in disobedience.  I'm not talking about outsiders alone; we were all guilty of falling headlong for the persuasive passions of this world; we all have had our fill of indulging the flesh and mind, obeying  impulses to follow perverse thoughts motivated by dark powers.  as a result, our natural inclinations led us to be children of wrath, just like the rest of human kind."  Ephesians 2: 1-3 (the Voice NT).

 Zombies- the living dead:  A body, reanimated, disgusting, grotesque and barbaric- alive yet devoid of the essential part that makes it human.  I don't know who hasn't heard of zombies- they are the subject of many horror movies. But to see one of these creatures- look no farther than your own reflection in the bathroom mirror. Ironically many of us are no different from the personification of a zombie- the undead- physically alive, technically, yet dead, spiritually- alive in the form of a body, breathing, walking, existing- yet dead in spirit. Many have  appearance of physical life, that is true, but dead in all that really mattered.


I used to be among the living dead, until the day I was saved.  No one escapes the weaknesses of being human, not one single one of us is perfect.  No one is without failures, mistakes, pride or selfishness.  We all fall short of God's perfect standard.  The bible is God's book yet regrettably it remains a mysterious, dusty volume collecting dust on most people's bookshelves.  According to the book of Romans in the New Testament of the bible- Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death. But the good news is that God offers forgiveness for sin.  When we admit that we sin and place our faith in the God of the bible and in his Son Jesus who died for our sins, we can be saved.

1 comment:

  1. Good piece.
    I especially liked the end ... Salvation. Isn't He amazing ... saving us from our dead existences! I'd like to invite you to FCMCs September Women's Fellowship; I'm leading a discussion about the fact that when we received Jesus as our Lord and Savior that we at the very same moment were completely healed of all our illness and disease! Something that is not often focused upon when taught about our salvation!
    Hope to see you soon, you've been missed.