« December 9, 2006 | Main | December 11, 2006 »

December 10, 2006

'Death Match' — by Pauline W. Chen


The above-titled essay appeared as the "Lives" feature on the final page of last Sunday's (December 3, 2006) New York Times magazine.

It's the stunning story of an eerie occurrence during Chen's transplant fellowship (she's a surgeon), when for a brief period of time she forgot that "the patient is the one with the disease."

The piece follows.

    Death Match

    Procuring organs was part of the job description during my transplant-surgery fellowship, and the operation was like any other. There were patients who required more care, others who seemed made for a surgeon’s hands. And though brain-dead, they all seemed remarkably alive. They bled bright red, and their chests rose and fell regularly, albeit with the aid of medications and life-support machines.

    We often worked in the middle of the night, keeping the body functioning for as long as possible. The less time we exposed the organs to the stillness of death, the greater the chances of success in waiting recipients. But every operation ended the same way. The senior surgeon cross-clamped the aorta, the anesthesiologist disconnected the medications and breathing tube and I snipped across the vena cava, letting blood drain into tubing connected to clear wastebasket-size canisters on the floor.

    I always emerged from those operating rooms feeling more alive than when I had entered. I became energized by the act of operating, the hope of transplantation.

    That was until my 83rd procurement. She was a 35-year-old Asian-American woman, like me. She was driving on a Southern California road when a drunken driver collided into her car. Three days later, brain-dead, on my operating table, she looked merely asleep. Her warm skin was taut, with few blemishes, and her full hips and thighs suggested a metabolism beginning to slow. Her toenails were painted pink.

    Hasan, the senior surgeon that night, began working on her abdomen. I was to open her chest.

    As I placed the pencil-like electrocautery instrument at the top of her breastbone, the surgical drape covering her right breast fell away. I pulled it up again but noticed the undulations of each rib and the gentle fall of breast tissue to her side. Her nipple and areola peeked through; they had a coloring and shape that I had seen on only one other person: myself. In fact, the very shape of her breast, the thinness of her chest and the texture of her skin reminded me of my own upper body. It was as if I were standing naked after a shower, looking in a mirror.

    I stopped for a moment, unable to put my instrument back to her chest, and my nose suddenly filled with the smell of flesh burned by Hasan’s cauterizing pen. It was a familiar odor — surgeons use electrocautery in almost every operation — but this time, it found its way into the pit of my stomach. I stepped back, tasting the smell in my mouth, and looked away to try to breathe in anything but what was wafting up into the air.

    “Are you sleepy?” Hasan asked gently. The clock read 3 a.m.

    “I’m all right,” I replied, trying to recover.

    “Come here and feel her liver.” He took my hand and plunged it into the woman’s upper abdomen. “It’s perfect.”

    The abdominal incision closed around my forearm. Her liver — soft, smooth, well formed — was perfect, but my fingers felt lost in the warm sponginess of organs. Loops of bowel slid by, and her pulsating aorta persistently nudged my palm.

    Hasan asked me to hold her abdominal incision open. I tried to pull the edges apart, but her abdominal wall had a vibrant elasticity that resisted. I looked closer at the cut edge and noticed that her dermis, the layer between the fat and the outer skin, was particularly thick. It was white, pearly.

    I remembered that as an intern I let medical students practice placing intravenous catheters in my arms. They always noted how difficult it was to drive those needles through. “Thick skin,” I’d say, trying to make a joke about internship. But then I would add, “My dermis is probably pretty thick.”

    Looking at her dermis now, I felt as if I were looking at my own. As we snipped away at the organ attachments, about to take her liver, pancreas and kidneys, I tried to ignore the aliveness of her body, to believe that she was only a cadaveric reflection of myself. But then, in my sleep-deprived state, I found I could not bear to think of her — of myself — as dead.

    The drape across her chest continued to slip, and I would have to see her breast yet again. Her thick dermis kept resisting our attempts to keep her belly open, making it difficult to take my eyes off that strong layer below the skin. And in the end, as I watched her blood fill those canisters on the floor, I felt as if my own life force were draining away.

    When we finally closed her stone-cold body, the warm blood replaced by preservation solution, my mind felt as emptied as she was. The muscles in my palms ached, and my legs were numb. I was profoundly exhausted, from sleep deprivation, overwork and an unbearable grief.



December 10, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Convertible Keychain Bags


Pretty nifty.

From the website:

Convertible Keychain Bags

These Keychain Bags convert instantly to carry those "can't live without" items.

When traveling, we never know when we'll need a helping hand — or a little extra carry-on space.


These Convertible Keychain Bags are small enough to clip on a pack or camera strap, yet expand to hold surprisingly large amounts, making them great additions to anyone's travel gear.

Made from 70 denier rip-stop nylon for durability and light weight.

Each bag weighs just 4 ounces!

• Day Pack in blue (612 cu. in.)


• Tote Bag in lime (755 cu. in.)

• Duffel Bag in red (1020 cu. in.)


Apiece, $10.50.

December 10, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer this time tomorrow (2:01 p.m. Monday, December 11, 2006).

December 10, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Bionic Gardening Glove


Jane Garmey, who writes on gardens and gardening for the Wall Street Journal, said this is "the best I've come across."


High praise indeed.



December 10, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meet Louise Bourgeois's Glass Maker


John Pomp (above, in his studio) blows glass that the great artist uses in her sculpture.

Stephen Treffinger visited the glass artist for a story/interview that appeared in the December 8, 2006 New York Times "Currents" section, and follows.

    Where All the Merchandise Starts With a Huff and a Puff

    John Pomp, a glass artist in Brooklyn, said he has always kept a few “extras and odds and ends” in his studio that passers-by could buy, but today he will open his first full-fledged retail shop. The new space, John Pomp Glass, is at the entrance to 160 Glass, Mr. Pomp’s studio and school in Williamsburg. A half wall between shop and studio will let customers watch glass blowers in action. If they become really intrigued, the studio offers classes and workshops.


    Mr. Pomp said he plans to use all the proceeds from the store in his community outreach and educational endeavors, such as subsidized classes and demonstrations for schools and camp programs.

    The shop will offer some items not available in other stores that carry Mr. Pomp’s work, which include Barneys New York and Aero in SoHo. “I want to be able to do some limited-edition pieces and see how people take to them,” he said. “It’s a kind of laboratory for me.” He also does lighting work on private commission for residential and commercial clients, and he blows glass that the artist Louise Bourgeois uses in her sculpture.

    The tall vases [above, $297] are from Mr. Pomp’s Classic collection, while the round ones [below, $275]


    are from his Lollipops. Prices range from $25 for holiday ornaments to $1,500 for limited-edition pieces: 160 Berry Street, Brooklyn; (718) 486-9620; Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

December 10, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Fido Fleece


From the website:

Fido Fleece®

Not all dogs are built for the cold.

But with Fido Fleece, even short-haired dogs can enjoy the winter!

Mid-weight poly fleece coat is warm, tough and both water- and soil-resistant.


Wraps your pooch from neck to tail, with room to do their "business."

Full-length Velcro® closure for easy on/off.


Sizes: S-XL (see fit chart below).


Red or Turquoise.


$25-$50, depending on size.

December 10, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A note on sources


It's easy enough to simply link to whatever Wikipedia has on someone or something but that's not what we do here.

Don't get me wrong: Wikipedia is superb and a prime resource for bookofjoe but you can go there to find something just as easily as we can.

So I encourage my crack research team to, whenever possible, find something a little more interesting and nongeneric to shed light on whatever is on the screen.

Someone's website or homepage tells you stuff you won't find on Wikipedia, as do fan and tribute sites and their ilk.

So now you know a little bit more about what goes on behind the curtain here.

December 10, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Giant World Map Puzzle


From the website:

    Oversized World Map Puzzle

    This brightly-colored oversized map puzzle of the world covers 26 square feet and depicts latitude, longitude, every flag, country name, and time zone on the planet, and facilitates the development of geographical awareness at an early age.

    The map's 252 pieces are crafted of rugged non-toxic 1/2" double-layered EVA foam and when fully assembled the map is over 6-1/2' long and 4' wide.

    The map can serve as a play mat as well as an oversized pin-up board (backing not included).

    Includes carrying case for easy transport and storage of pieces.

    Waterproof, washable and hypoallergenic.

    Ages 3 and up.


I'm totally stoked because that last line in the description above means nearly 100% of my readers are puzzle-ready.



December 10, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

« December 9, 2006 | Main | December 11, 2006 »