Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Body parts

This evening I was talking with some friends. All of them have been here in Japan a long time. One of them is going to have surgery soon.

Now and then you hear things that make you remember that you are living in a foreign country, that this will never be anything but a foreign country, that this is just too weird to comprehend, and that you will never, ever cease being surprised by things you learn. (And maybe this is why you're here).

Tonight I had one of those moments.

What I learned tonight is that apparently, if you have surgery and some part of your body is removed (a gall bladder, a womb, an appendix, whatever), they want your next of kin (or at least close family member) to be out there in the hospital waiting, after the surgery, so that YOUR NEAREST AND DEAREST CAN BE SHOWN THE REMOVED PART OF YOUR BODY. If you are giving birth, it is the umbilical cord.

I am reluctant to believe this. It is just too outrageous. Are my friends winding me up? I will have to ask The Man when he comes home.

My friends tonight assured me that they all have heard of this, either from personal experience or from a family member or friend. But none of them knows why this is done.

The friend who is having surgery will have her husband waiting at the hospital after the surgery. She says she has instructed them NOT to take her body parts out to him to display. She has told them he is useless with things like that, and will reward them by passing out. But she is not sure whether they took any notice of her instructions. She got the feeling they were going to do it anyway, because this is Japan and this is the way things are done, here.

Thinking about it now, I have a horrible feeling it could turn out to be true and not some bizarre joke my friends are playing on me. In fact ... could this explain The Man's Mineral Collection? He has kept every kidney stone he has ever passed, washed and wrapped in tissue, in a little box. I'd always thought this was a personal idiosyncrasy, one of his strange personal habits - but could it be cultural?

Or maybe ... is the organ display thing a new custom? Maybe it is somehow connected with the various scandals there have been in recent times, when the wrong organ has been removed. Maybe the next of kin is supposed to check that the surgeon has removed the right bit.

I am trying to imagine it.

"Lemme see. Yup! That's my wife's gall bladder, definitely. Turf it! It's been nothing but trouble. Ugh."

Or, alternatively,

"Not the kidney, stupid! The spleen! Put it back and try again. Idiots."

No, it doesn't work. It can't be that. SURELY NOT. Nobody could POSSIBLY expect anybody to be able to identify a bloody body part recently removed from a family member, not even here. Would you know the difference between a spleen and a gall bladder if somebody suddenly presented you with one or the other?

I wish The Man would hurry up and come home. Thinking about this is driving me up the wall, and I want an explanation.

(But I'm not expecting him until late, so I'll inform you of his response later.)

Addendum: The Man just came home, and he looked very doubtful at this story. "I don't think so," he said. "They might show it to you, afterwards, but not to your family. I don't think. Well, I've never heard of it... Erk. Yuck."

In other words he isn't really sure, but he DOESN'T LIKE THE IDEA AT ALL.

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Paula said...

ROFL! This is too funny! You could do a whole skit with it.

melinama said...

Nothing for it, you will have to have surgery yourself and see what happens.

E.P. said...

LMAO, GoodAunt! Another one of your EXQUISITE essays! And this "mineral collection" of The Man----tooo funny! You must regale the world: put out a book with your best posts! Don't tarry, bec. you might be depriving someone of a direly-needed laughing cure (a la Norman Cousins' ANATOMY OF AN ILLNESS). You wouldn't want THAT on your conscience, now, would you? ;)

Robert said...

Thanks for the comment on my site. After reading this, I'm strangely feeling better about a laser surgery. At least the doctor won't have any body parts to show the peanut gallery!