Читать онлайн "As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl" автора Colapinto John - RuLit - Страница 4


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The newlyweds moved into a tiny cold-water flat in downtown Winnipeg. They couldn’t afford better. Janet was getting minimum wage working as a waitress at the Red Top diner; Ron was toiling for low pay at a factory that made windows. That they would have to bring in more money was obvious—especially when, during one of Janet’s checkups with her obstetrician, she learned that she was pregnant with twins. Ron was nervous, but Janet refused to be anything but optimistic. “I was so excited,” she says, “because all my life I’d been dreaming, Oh wouldn’t it be wonderful to have twins?”

That June, when Janet was five months pregnant, Ron landed a union job at one of the city’s biggest slaughterhouses, and his pay more than doubled, enabling them to move into a two-bedroom apartment on the corner of Dubuc and Des Meurons Streets. Then the couple had a scare. When she was in the latter stages of her pregnancy, Janet developed a serious case of toxemia—a pregnancy-related form of high blood pressure that, untreated, can be harmful to the fetus. Her doctor recommended that she have her labor and delivery induced.

On 22 August 1965, some four weeks before her projected due date, Janet was admitted to St. Boniface Hospital. During his wife’s labor, Ron sat in the visitor’s lounge nervously awaiting the outcome. After several hours, a nurse came and announced that everything had gone fine and that he was the father of identical twins. In his relief and excitement at hearing that Janet and the babies were alive and well, Ron failed to take in anything else. So as he hurried through the doorway toward the nursery to see his children, he was brought up short by a smiling nurse who called out to him, “Boy or girl?”

“I don’t know!” Ron called back. “I just know there’s two of ’em!”

They named the twins Bruce and Brian. They were so similar in appearance that people could not tell them apart, but Janet and Ron, like the parents of most identical twins, could soon distinguish the children easily. Bruce, the elder of the two by twelve minutes, had been born slightly underweight and as a result had had to stay in the hospital a few days to be fattened up. But by the time he joined his twin brother at home, it was clear that he was the more active child, tending to writhe and wriggle and to wake in the night with greater frequency than his brother Brian, a peaceful, less rowdy baby. Both bore a striking resemblance to Janet, with their upturned noses and small round mouths.

By the time the boys were six months of age, Janet felt like an old hand at pacifying, feeding, and changing them. Ron had received another raise, and the family moved to a still bigger and nicer place to live—an actual house on Metcalfe Street, not far from their former apartment. Life seemed to be shaping up beautifully for the young family.

Which is what made it so unsettling when, shortly after the twins were seven months old, Janet noticed that they seemed to be in distress when they urinated. At first she thought it was just the wet diapers that made them cry; then she noticed that even after a diaper change they would scream and complain. She examined their penises and noticed that their foreskins seemed to be sealing up at the tip and making it difficult for the boys to pass water. She took the babies to see her pediatrician, who explained that they were suffering from a condition called phimosis. It was not rare, he said, and was easily remedied by circumcision. After talking about it with Ron, Janet agreed to have the children circumcised at St. Boniface Hospital.

The operations were scheduled for the morning of 27 April, but because Ron was working the late shift at the slaughterhouse, he and Janet decided that he should drive the kids in to be admitted the night before. Apart from the normal concern any parent would feel on the eve of such an operation, Ron and Janet felt no particular trepidation about the circumcisions. Nor should they have. St. Boniface was an excellent, fully modern general teaching hospital. Housed in a seven-story building, it had seven hundred beds, a cardiac care unit, and a children’s hospital where, in the mid-1960s, some 2,600 babies were delivered annually and roughly a thousand circumcisions performed each year, all without mishap.

“We weren’t worried,” Janet says. “We didn’t know we had anything to worry about.”

Ordinarily, pediatricians experienced in circumcisions performed the procedure at St. Boniface Hospital, but on the morning of 27 April 1966 the usual attending physician, for reasons lost to history, was not available when the Reimer twins were scheduled for their operations. The duty fell to Dr. Jean-Marie Huot, a forty-six-year-old general practitioner.

When a nurse was dispatched to collect the first of the children, it was pure happenstance that she lifted baby Bruce from the bassinet first.

With the baby fixed and draped on the operating table, Dr. Max Cham, the anesthesiologist, administered gas to put Bruce to sleep. (Though newborns were routinely circumcised without anesthesia, a child of eight months, like baby Bruce, could not be operated on while conscious.) Sources differ slightly on what happened next. Court papers later filed against the surgeon, hospital, and three attending nurses refer to an “artery clamp” that was used to secure the piece of foreskin that was meant to be cut away. An artery clamp, however, would be a most unusual choice for such a procedure. According to Dr. Cham, with whom I spoke in the winter of 1997, Dr. Huot used the standard Gomco clamp. Designed specifically for circumcisions, the clamp is used to prevent excessive bleeding: the foreskin is stretched over a bell-shaped metal sheath; a round clamping device then closes over the stretched foreskin and compresses it against the bell, squeezing the foreskin and thus making it blood-free for excision by scalpel.

Regardless of which clamp was used, it is not in doubt that Dr. Huot elected to use not a scalpel to cut away Bruce’s foreskin, but a Bovie cautery machine. This device employs a generator to deliver an electric current to a sharp, needlelike cutting instrument, which burns the edges of an incision as it is made, sealing the blood vessels to prevent bleeding—a quite superfluous consideration if Huot had indeed used a Gomco clamp, and a dangerous one, since it would bring perilously close to the penis a current that could be conducted by the metal bell encasing the organ. If, at the same time, the current to the needle were to be turned up almost to the maximum, the results could be cataclysmic.

According to the later testimony of operating room personnel, the electrocautery machine was turned on, and the hemostat dial, which controlled the amount of heat in the needle, was set at the minimum. Dr. Huot lowered the needle and touched it to Bruce’s foreskin. Subsequent testing of the machine revealed that it was in proper working order. Whether through temporary mechanical malfunction, user error, or some combination of the two, the needle failed to sever the flesh on the first pass. The hemostat control was turned up. Once again the instrument was applied to the foreskin; again it failed to cut. The cautery machine’s current was increased. The needle was once again brought into contact with the foreskin.



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