Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Total Recall

There was a point in my career where I was reading the Journal of the American Medical Association or the New England Journal of Medicine weekly—they are affectionately referred to as JAMA and NEJM respectively. Working for the state medical society, or later for the Department of Health, I was required to keep up to date with medical and health news. Thus the weekly reading of journals.

Occasionally, as I read the highly technical articles, I was struck by the remembrance that at one point in my educational life, I aspired to be a doctor. I even told my parents about this desire, and their response was they would support me, not financially as that was not possible, but emotionally. Well, then I ran into college chemistry. Poof! Medical school dreams went out the window.

When I began to work for the state medical society, I took to the content of the work immediately. And I loved reading these journals. I hadn’t thought about them for quite a while, until I read Julie Z’s
recent post on the birth of her daughter, Phoebe. Julie described in complete and hilarious detail what that day, July 11, was like eleven years ago.

Total recall! That’s what made me remember the medical journals. I recall several very interesting studies from these journals. The first article is the one that Julie’s account reminded me of. Researchers did a study on birth information. First, they interviewed the women who had gone through labor. They asked them for all sorts of details. Then the researchers went to the medical records, and confirmed time and again the accuracy of the mothers’ recall. It was total. The mothers got all the details right: timing, length of labor, sequence of symptoms, etc. This recall was still accurate years and years after the birth.

Another article that intrigued me was whether or not people can postpone the event of their own deaths. The researchers studied Jewish people and Chinese people. They looked at deaths before and after high holy days, for the Jewish participants, and Chinese New Year for Chinese participants. In both cases, deaths declined before the significant calendar events, and then spiked afterwards. Their conclusion—people can delay their own impending deaths to live just long enough to participant in something of importance to them.

NEJM had a feature I loved. It showed various imaging photos—for example, an x-ray, a CT scan, or an MRI. Then posed the question what the diagnosis might be. One story was about a man who presented at the emergency room with a partial paralysis. The hospital staff did an CT scan and the cause was immediately visible. He had a nail embedded in his brain. It turns out the man was desolate, and tried to commit suicide by firing a nail gun at his head. A nail pierced his skull right between the eyes, but didn’t kill him. But the real kicker in this story is that the nail gun event happened 12 years before he came to the emergency room for treatment.

So, I never became a doctor. However, I have occasionally diagnosed family members' symptoms--accurately, I might add. Once, my husband thought he was having a stroke because one side of his face seemed to him to be paralyzed. But, with a bit of quick research, I came up with another possibility. Bell’s palsy—my diagnosis. And, when he saw a doctor, sure enough—the doctor confirmed my diagnosis! HA! Another time, my son had a sharp pain in his side, and began to think all sorts of dire things. Maybe, pleurisy, I ventured. And again, the doctor confirmed my diagnosis. Thankfully, both my husband and son completely recovered (with the doctor's help, of course.)

Well, I don’t read these journals any more. Perhaps it’s just as well—as I get older, and have more aches and pains, best I not know too many technical names for them! Now ask me about the day my son Geoffrey or my daughter Kristen were born—and I will have TOTAL RECALL.

K and G (of KGMom)


Anonymous said...

I like reading about the twists and turns that happened in your life Donna to make it what it is today. And Yes... I agree .... women all remember their birthing stories...every detail but I think I have blocked some memories also and why is it that the Dads remember different things in different ways -- Male point of view?? Also I think you would have made a great Doctor.

Mary said...

That's a nice photo of your children, Donna. They're so attractive!

I have the same story regarding my diagnosis of Bell's Palsy. My husband woke up on morning and couldn't whistle. I diagnosed him but we headed for the hospital anyway.

After twenty five years, I have total recall of my labor and giving birth.

Ruth said...

The mind-body connection is so strong, yet most of us have no confidence in our intuitive awareness of our bodies. I have seen the delay of death played out over and over again. I subscribe to Medscape (free) and receive email updates on the latest journal articles every week in the specialities I am interested in. It is a great way to keep up with the fast changing world of medicine.

Ginnie said...

Total recall? It's a mystery to me how my "total recall" can be so different from that of my siblings who experienced the same thing. I think our minds are fascinating, as was your blog.

KGMom said...

Ocean--great to hear from you--you know I am a fan of yours!
I suspect men's recollections are different because their experiences are different.

Mary--you are one of the bloggers I read who have conducted "surveys"--send me you stories, etc. I decided against doing that with birth stories, but I bet you could all recall in detail.

Ruth--I will look up Medscape. I am still interested in medical & health news; I just don't have the same access.

Ginnie--what you refer to is another phenomena of memory. A different study showed that siblings have totally different memories of the same family experiences, because their perception varies. That is, even though we experience the same event, our filters are different.

Anvilcloud said...

You do have amazing recall. So, it's true that people can choose their death dates to some extent. Fascinating.

Cathy said...

Beautiful children, Donna. Well worth the 'totally recalled' birthing effort. :0)

Regarding your girlhood dream of becoming a doctor: I often wonder how many times those chemistry courses prevent people who would otherwise have functioned as caring competent practitioners from pursuing their MD.

Intuition and the ability to 'hear' are not measured by the winnowing system.

(Thanks for the kind remarks at 'Looking Up)

cat59 said...

I don't think I have total recall about anything, but then again, I don't have any children. As a friend of ours says when you ask him if he remembers something, "Was that today? If not, I don't remember it!"

Elaine Cougler Author said...

Interesting topic today, kgmom. And I loved the pic of your two kids. At this time in life it's good to look at the good we did rather than specualate on the 'road not..." you know.
Have a geat weekend!

Denise said...

Great picture of Geoffrey and Kristen! I'm sure you are very proud, as you should be.