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In much of rural Georgia, maternal healthcare is disappearing
Dr. Joy Baker’s patients travel 40 miles on average to see her. Some pull up in their own cars, but if they’re too poor to own one, they might hitch rides with friends or on the Medicaid van, which must be scheduled three days in advance and also can run early or late.
The first time I helped a young person walk again
She was in her early 20s, and she had severe rheumatoid arthritis in her hips. It had gotten so bad that she had to pull out of college. She had developed hip flexion contracture, which means her hip was stuck in a fixed, bent position. Even if she tried to stand up, her head would nearly touch the ground.
The first time I had to tell a patient they were dying of cancer
Fifteen years ago I had a patient with bladder cancer that had spread to her kidney. We decided to remove the kidney, but afterward the X-rays showed the cancer was much more advanced than we’d thought. Now I was faced with telling her that she was probably going to die.
The first time I delivered twins but only one survived
I kept glancing in the direction of Twin B. The staff was huddled around the baby, and I saw they were moving more quickly than they would for a normal newborn. I caught the eye of the attending neonatologist, who shook her head. I felt sick.
The first time I performed an organ transplant in the nick of time
She was a college student who developed what’s called fulminant liver failure, which happens to probably 2,000 people a year in the country. Without a liver transplant, she would have died within a week.
The first time I rebuilt a patient’s face
She was a middle-aged woman who’d been driving on a two-lane highway when a deer ran out in front of her. The deer went through the windshield and was pinned there. She was trapped inside, the deer kicking her in the face over and over again until they could extract her from the car.
The first time I injected radioactive material into a brain
We did a lot of planning and dry runs, but I was still a bit nervous. This treatment is rarely used, and the last time it was done here at Emory was probably 25 years ago.
The first time I treated a ruptured uterus
I arrived in the hospital room to find a pregnant woman writhing in pain. On the screen, I immediately saw something odd. The baby was awkwardly positioned, and its heart rate was super low. I realized we had to deliver her right away.