Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Hand of Hope

I'm not a big fan of television. I know, I know... TV can be a wonderful medium for entertainment and education. We do watch LOST, and when it's in season, American Idol (that's right, I said American Idol). Channel 12 has some very "illuminating" material from time to time. But I think it goes without saying, although I am about to say it, that television for the most part is a "vast wasteland." That being said, the other night we found an oasis. We watched House. The weird thing is, we never watch House. It's a doctor show, and House is his name; he's as crass a doctor as you can find - insensitive, inhuman, and cold as an Alaskan Salmon. But he's a super genius. The episode we providentially clicked upon the other night featured the tale of a photographer who suffers from a stroke due to some mystery illness. To complicate matters, Emma is pregnant. House and his "special forces" team have to figure out what's up in this 60 minute show and save the 40 something mama and/or her unborn child. Hence the drama, and mama tells House she wants him to save both. The staff comes up with five possible conditions, all of which test negative. Dr. Cranky Pants (that's House) confronts the mother, Emma, and warns that there’s something wrong with the fetus. He refers to the baby as a fetus throughout the show, revealing unusual amounts of animosity towards the fetus (Latin for "little one" by the way), even for House. Time is running out, and he suggests to Emma that there's only one way to go: deliver the baby at 21 weeks, two weeks earlier than when it is viable. But Emma won't hear of it, wants to wait the two weeks, and refuses to have an abortion. Sounds like St. Gianna Molla to me. To cut to the chase, they finally decide to do exploratory surgery on the baby and explain things to Emma. She agrees nervously and House bitterly performs the operation. During the procedure the baby’s hand reaches up and out of the exposed uterus and gently grasps his gloved finger! In a powerfully long moment of silence, House stares at the tiny hand, perfectly formed and watches wide-eyed as the little fingers squeezes his own.
Now, lest we think this is some crazy television drama and a thing like this could never happen (I mean the little hand reaching, not just the amazingly pro-life message of this episode), take a look at the photo below and the following true story from photojournalist Michael Clancy. I am sure it was his experience last night's episode. He was kind enough to allow me to post this amazing picture he took about 8 years ago. (Visit his website for the full story here): "As a veteran photo journalist in Nashville, Tennessee, I was hired by USA Today newspaper to photograph a spina bifida corrective surgical procedure. It was to be performed on a twenty-one week old fetus in utero at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. At that time, in 1999, twenty-one weeks in utero was the earliest that the surgical team would consider for surgery. The tension could be felt in the operating room as the surgery began... The entire procedure would take place within the uterus, and no part of the child was to breach the surgical opening. During the procedure, the position of the fetus was adjusted by gently manipulating the outside of the uterus. The entire surgical procedure on the child was completed in 1 hour and thirteen minutes. When it was over, the surgical team breathed a sigh of relief, as did I. As a doctor asked me what speed of film I was using, out of the corner of my eye I saw the uterus shake, but no one's hands were near it. It was shaking from within. Suddenly, an entire arm thrust out of the opening, then pulled back until just a little hand was showing. The doctor reached over and lifted the hand, which reacted and squeezed the doctor's finger. As if testing for strength, the doctor shook the tiny fist. Samuel held firm. I took the picture! Wow! It happened so fast that the nurse standing next to me asked, "What happened?" "The child reached out," I said. "Oh. They do that all the time," she responded. The surgical opening to the uterus was closed and the uterus was then put back into the mother and the C-section opening was closed. It was ten days before I knew if the picture was even in focus. To ensure no digital manipulation of images before they see them, USA Today requires that film be submitted unprocessed. When the photo editor finally phoned me he said, "It's the most incredible picture I've ever seen." - Michael Clancy So that House had a foundation in the real world.... What a tribute to the miracle of life! _________________________________________ Photo © 2005 Michael Clancy, used with permission.
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