Friday, October 10, 2008

Doctor saves my dad's life; tugs at my feminist heart strings

The following writing could be gender neutral or appositive towards men. However, to write as such would be disingenuous to my current state of emoting feminism. With that said, feel free to apply it to whomever you choose.

A 6:30 a.m. I entered the surgical prep room where my dad was already in bed donning a hospital gown. My brother, a physician, was chatting with friends at the hospital and making my dad feel at ease.

Then she walked in. Dr. Talia Baker. Transplant Surgeon. At age 41 she is one of the top transplant surgeons at Northwestern University Hospital. She is about 5’6, thin build, blue eyes and dark hair worn in a hybrid layered cut/bob.

Talia has three kids, all under the age of five. She majored in history and then decided to go to medical school. She speaks confidently that “your dad will do just great in the surgery.” I believe her.

Eight and a half hours later she emerges from surgery looking tired but cheerful. She explains with depth and precision why my father’s surgery took so long and complications that she anticipates. I imagine her standing in the surgical room (did I mention it took 8 hours!) cutting my father open, maneuvering through the layers of scar tissue, flipping his liver, and then resecting it and resecting it again until comfortable that the margins are centimeters free of cancer. I imagine her wearing her mini binoculars on her glasses so that she can see precisely the hernias from previous surgeries and the hundred or so bile ducts that have formed as a result of liver damage.

As she anticipates my dad’s recovery, I resist the urge to tackle her with a huge hug of thanks. As soon as I can, I go to the intensive care unit to see my dad. He is doing fine. Many tubes, a mask to help him breathe, but he is just fine. He is even cracking jokes half true to his personality and half fueled by the pain medication and left over anesthetic.

As I return to the surgical waiting room I see the magazines that my sister in law bought to entertain us while we awaited my dad’s emergence from surgery: People and US magazine.

To be fair, I read US Magazine especially if I’m feeling stressed because it helps get my mind off reality. But then I wondered…

How would our world be different if we lauded the Talia Bakers in the world? What if the top selling magazine covers featured women whose contributions mattered, instead of focusing on Britney’s drug problem, Lindsey’s drug problem, Paris’ drug problem, the extra fat on so and sos stomach and the 30 pounds someone was paid to lose by a diet company whose results are unreliable. Why are we focused on who got what plastic surgery and who is dating or cheating on whom?

In addition, why do we fuel the hyper commercialization of young people with marginal talent whose biggest achievement is attaining stardom because of aggressive publicists or being related to famous parents?

Imagine a magazine that features the winner of the Science Olympiad. Or an artist that created art. Or a composer of music. Why are we not featuring these kids’ successes instead of solely focusing on the rich, famous and f-ed up? What if we knew the stories of the genetic counselors who guide a woman at risk of having a child born with a genetic disease through conception and pregnancy; or the special education teacher who teaches her students to read; or the speech language pathologist who teachers her autistic student to speak; or the volunteer in Africa who counsels victims of rape? Or the attorney at the ACLU who protects a woman’s right to choose? Or the aid who cares for an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s?

Perhaps in this post feminist age, in this uber obsessed celebrity culture, this is the final battle women must fight: the battle to celebrate and promote achievements, even permeate the culture with such accomplishments, which are completely unrelated to looks or sex appeal.

Imagine young women dumping the Hillary Duff and Hannah Montana posters for ones of Condoleeza Rice shaking hands with a Saudi Prince? Or of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor at the U.S. Supreme Court? Or of the top doctor of their town with her arm around a patient she saved after a car accident?

If the day comes when women are revered for what in reality benefits our society rather than the materialism that overwhelms Americans then perhaps this next generation of young women will become “the greatest generation” of the 21st century. If we continue to revere women only based on their breasts, hair, and waist size, I have no doubt that the future of our country is bleak and Barbie better watch out or her next job will be as a contestant on “The Biggest Loser.”

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