Human Oddities: Genetics

I have a friend who was a palliative care nurse and is now a mortician. We briefly worked together and got along like a house on fire, we spent our lunch breaks discussing her thoughts on euthanasia, she even gave me a great story for one of my ethics assignments. A woman who didn’t finish year 12, knew more about life than the Dr’s who tried so hard help the dying.

We recently saw each other over a coffee. I asked about her new job, and she begun to tell me about how beautifully obscure it was, holding nothing back because she knew how much I loved it.

Human oddities, circus freaks, monsters, or medical marvels, whatever you call them, that’s what she was telling me about. I was enthralled. Curious. Intrigued.

“We have a weird one coming in tomorrow” she said. “I can sneak you in, but don’t eat before”.

I was excited, which was somewhat concerning. I didn’t sleep all night, my mind wondered. I remembered the boy with lobster hands, the Siamese twins, and even the girl with three arms.

I did as she told me, I skipped breakfast. I parked my car and lit up a cigarette. She came over and gave me some words of warning, I’ve seen a lot, so I wasn’t too concerned.

We walked into the room before the room with the body. I put gloves, an apron, and a mask on.

“You ready” she said. “As I’ll ever be” I replied.

The body didn’t make sense, it was small, but at the same time it wasn’t. It was definitely not a baby, it had to have been a 5 or 6 year old. “It’s 34 weeks” she said. My mind couldn’t work out the math to convert it to months. “8 and a half months” She said. It didn’t make any sense in my mind.

I looked closer, she began to tell me the story of this little soul.

“The parents call it a her, but that’s their decision, it was born without a sex, or anal cavity. She lived for 8 hours before all her organs shut down and she died. Take a look here, she has 2 thumbs on her right hand and some of her ribs are missing, that’s why she looks deformed”.

I was taking it all in, asking the questions in my head, why would she be carried to 8 and a half months if it was clear she wasn’t going to have any quality of life? Another topic I had studied – Is a life of suffering worth the pain? Abortion? All these topics came into my head, but I was more focused on the secrets her body was telling me, the secrets about our genetic dispositions, the secrets about what happens when things don’t go to plan. How our physical evolution from organisms isn’t without fault.

I remembered a documentary about how a little girl in India, who hard several arms was regarded as a goddess, because she resembled Ganesh and how twins were disregarded in Nigeria.

I want to know more about these human oddities, the defects, the deformities, they hold a key and map to our genetic history.

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