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Samuel Armas

Samuel Armas's arm slipping out of the uterus of his mother Julie Armas. Doctor's hands are Dr. Joseph Bruner. Photographed by Michael Clancy
Born Samuel Alexander Armas
December 2, 1999 (1999-12-02) (age 10)
Villa Rica, Georgia, US
Residence Villa Rica, Georgia
Nationality  United States
Known for Had his picture taken while still in the womb
Parents Alex and Julie Armas

Samuel Alexander Armas (born December 2, 1999(1999-12-02)) is the child shown in a famous photograph by Michael Clancy as he grasped his surgeon's hand from a hole in his mother's uterus during open fetal surgery for spina bifida.

Contents

Story behind the photo

The photograph was taken during a pioneering surgical procedure performed on August 19, 1999 to fix the spina bifida lesion of a 21-week-old fetus in the womb. The operation was performed by a surgical team at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. The team, Dr. Joseph Bruner and Dr. Noel Tulipan, had been developing a technique for correcting certain fetal problems in mid-pregnancy. Their procedure involved temporarily opening the uterus, draining the amniotic fluid, partially extracting and performing surgery on the tiny fetus, then restoring the fetus to the uterus back inside the mother.

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Samuel Armas

Alex and Julie Armas first discovered that their baby had spina bifida during an ultrasound at 14 weeks after conception mark. The Armases came across the Vanderbilt procedure while researching their options online.[1]

This was the surgical team's 54th operation on a fetus still in the uterus.[2]. During the operation, Dr. Joseph Bruner successfully alleviated the effects of the opening in Samuel's spine caused by the spina bifida.

Around the world

Pictures from the surgery were printed in a number of newspapers in the U.S. and around the world, including USA Today. As a result of the operation, Armas was healthy when he was delivered on December 2, 1999.

On September 25, 2003 the boy's parents, Alex and Julie, testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space about the photo and their experience with in-utero surgery.

Today, Samuel is nearly four years old and has not had to endure the surgeries that are common for most children with spina bifida. He's walking with leg braces, is cognitively normal, and loves looking for bugs.
 
— Alex Armas[3]

Matt Drudge

In 1999 Matt Drudge hosted a Saturday night television show called Drudge on the Fox News Channel. In Nov 1999 he attempted to show Samuel's picture on his Fox News program, but was not allowed to by the network. This led to his leaving of the show for what he claimed to be the network's censorship. Fox News directors didn't want to use the picture because they feared Drudge would use it to support a pro-life argument. They viewed this would be misleading because the tabloid photo dealt not with abortion, but with an emergency operation on the fetus for spina bifida.[4]

Controversy

The picture attracted a lot of attention as, when it was released, it was used by opponents of abortion who asserted that that the baby reached through the womb and grabbed the doctor's hand, thus showing signs of life at the 21st week of pregnancy. Indeed the photograph and many of the texts which often accompany it seem to support this view including the account of the photographer Michael Clancy:

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.

 
— - Michael Clancy[5]

However, the surgeon later stated that Samuel and his mother, Julie, were under anesthesia and could not move.

"The baby did not reach out," Dr Bruner said. "The baby was anesthetized. The baby was not aware of what was going on." [6].

He also stated, “Depending on your political point of view, this is either Samuel Armas reaching out of the uterus and touching the finger of a fellow human, or it’s me pulling his hand out of the uterus … which is what I did.”[7]

Cultural references

The event has been referred to in two medical TV series: the drama House, in the episode Fetal Position and the sitcom Scrubs, in the episode My Road to Nowhere.

References

  1. ^ "Famous Pictures Magazine - Fetus Hand Reaches Out". Famous Pictures Magazine. 2007. http://www.famouspictures.org/mag/index.php?title=Fetus_hand_reaches_out. Retrieved 2007-08-17.  
  2. ^ Barbara and David P. Mikkelson (September 3, 2006). "Urban Legends Reference Pages - The Hand". pub. http://www.snopes.com/photos/medical/thehand.asp. Retrieved 2007-08-17.  
  3. ^ Jonathan Imbody (2007). "A Flash of Life". http://www.nrlc.org/news/2003/NRL10/an_update_on_samuel_armas.htm. Retrieved 2007-08-17.  
  4. ^ Howard Kurtz (1999-11-15). "The Going Gets Tough, and Matt Drudge Gets Going". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/1999-11/15/021r-111599-idx.html. Retrieved 2007-07-29.  
  5. ^ Michael Clancy (2007). "Story". Michael Clancy. http://www.michaelclancy.com/story.html. Retrieved 2007-08-17.  
  6. ^ Davis, Robert. "Hand of a Fetus Touched the World." USA Today. 2 May 2000 (p. D8)
  7. ^ “Photo of fetal surgery still stirs emotion.” The Tennessean Newspaper January 9th, 2000

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