The greats we learn about. Often men. Many of us have heard and read the stories of the "Fathers" of modern medicine.
But let's know and share and never forget the story of these women, Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey. We might call them the "mothers" of medicine, of modern gynecology. Alas, these enslaved women whose bodies were used for physician's research. Without anesthesia. Consent unknown.
Take a moment to listen to this moving podcast at NPR's Hidden Brain with historian and physician Vanessa Northington Gamble, and artist and author Bettina Judd, telling these stories that need to be told.
Monday, February 22, 2016
Sunday, January 17, 2016
It was 9:35 pm and I found myself staring longingly at a trash can, salivating at the beautiful sandwich perched precariously on its rim. My hands were trembling from hunger. If you would have checked my blood sugar at that moment, it would have likely been critically low.
My day had started at 6am with a 5 mile run and I hadn't stopped moving since. I got paged for a stat delivery while I was in the shower and the day had seemed to go down hill quickly. A full office and multiple laboring patients awaited me. My emergency protein bar served as my lunch and during the cafeteria's dinner hours, I was in the OR on a hemorrhaging ectopic pregnancy. I was so tired I could feel every muscle in my body, and each one throbbed in their own unique way.
|Clearly the sandwich is above the rim.|
That is how I found myself in my real life Seinfeldian dilemma. After realizing the cafeteria was closed I had went back to my office in hopes of grabbing a leftover sandwich out of the refrigerator only to realize in horror that someone had thrown the precious salted meats in the trash. However one specimen had perched itself slightly above the rim, still on its original plastic tray.
Do I eat refuse or trek across campus to the doctors lounge for a poptart? If it is above the rim is it technically garbage? Not to me in that moment. I wolfed down the cold cuts and said a little prayer against listeria and all other types of food poisoning. It tasted divine.
I thought about how very strange my life was, as I sat back and patted my full belly. A mere two weeks earlier I was dining at leisurely at cafes in Paris, now I was George Constanza eating out of the trash.
|Beautiful gourmet meal in Paris.|
The next day I ran into a casual acquaintance who remarked how glamorous my life seemed on social media. I laughed and told her my trash eating story. The incident made me think of the many other strange juxtapositions of my life.
There was the time I found myself in one of the messiest deliveries of my life a couple of hours before the hospital Christmas party. While birth is a beautiful moment of life, sometimes it can also be a giant hot mess. During this rather difficult birth I was initially pooped on quite extensively. Then as the baby delivered, I was hit with a tsunami wave of amniotic fluid that soaked me to the core, making a mockery of my 'protective gear'. The patient then began hemorrhaging, so I performed an internal uterine massage to help stop the bleeding, which equals me inserting my entire arm into her uterus, making me feel a little bit like a large animal vet. The only bodily fluid missing from the event was vomit. Hours later after a "Silkwood shower" and a quick makeup application, I find myself at a country club in a little black dress having small talk about the weather.
Many times I've been at the playground with my kids only to sneak away a few steps to answer a call from the hospital about a STD or other topic that is definitely not a 'playground friendly'. Bedtime stories or games of 'hide and seek' have often been interrupted with stat pages to the hospital. I've gone from reading Dr. Seuss to performing an emergency C-section in moments.
The worst juxtaposition is dealing with loss in the middle of a regular day. While OB/GYN is often a happy specialty, when it is sad it is heartbreakingly awful. I often have to deliver the worst of news: miscarriage, infidelity, cancer, infertility. There have been days where I have went from placing a lifeless baby in a mothers arms and with barely a moment to catch my breath and dry my eyes, to seeing a patient for a new pregnancy right down the hall. Death and life with only moments in between; the roller coaster of emotions is so strange.
I'm not complaining about my job. I'm well adjusted to the bodily fluids and tumultuous schedule. I simply find it intriguing how my life can go from one extreme to another so very quickly. I'm sure most other doctors would have similar stories (well maybe not the trash). Also this serves as a good reminder that if you see me looking semi-fancy in a picture, the special ingredient that made my hair extra shiny, might just have been amniotic fluid.
Cross posted @ drheatherrupe.com