Friday, February 17, 2012

Postcard from the Ether Dome

The "Mass" in "Mass. General Hospital" stands for "Massachusetts," though it could stand for "Massively confusing," since it's one of those really old hospitals that has a bunch of additions, with none of them really labelled well, making it really hard to find anything and necessitating a well-staffed information desk.

Recently, the Boy took the day off for a doctor's appointment, so we decided to head to the Ether Dome, where anesthesia was first successfully used in an operation. The dome is the operating theater where it happened, and the hospital now has it set up as a museum that you can visit. During business hours. When there aren't any meetings in there. Not that they'd tell you the schedule or anything.

This is, of course, what happened when we visited. Once we actually found the right entrance that would eventually lead us to the right building and got to the Ether Dome, there was a meeting going on (that I sort of walked into, since the door was open, and it certainly felt a little bit "tour guidey" to me). Dome off-limits to the general public.

One would think the visit was a failure, but not really. We did get to poke through the random tiny museum behind the operating room that you entered through a Jill-sized door, which meant the Boy had to pretty much double in half to get through it. This, of course, is a phenomenon I haven't experienced since we went to Japan, so I was pleased.

The museum contained random examining chairs and tables, none of which were labelled, so you didn't know what the heck you were even looking at--it kind of felt like they cleaned out old Dr. Morton's office in the 1980s and decided just to shove the contents back there. It also contained the wedding clothes of J. Masson Warren, who got married on April 30, 1839. Warren, I learned as I was writing this, since the few faded information panels along one wall were too boring to read and I don't have extensive knowledge of medical history, performed the first nose job and also developed surgeries for closing cleft palates. How his wedding clothes ended up framed and tucked behind an old operating theater in a hospital is a mystery.

Even though the museum took all of five minutes to look at, I was strangely transfixed. "This is a bizarre little museum," I said to the Boy.

"I know. And it's probably full of germs! Germs from a thousand years ago that they don't know how to cure anymore!"

I opened up a drawer on an examining table. The Boy got disgusted. "Don't touch anything! You're like a little kid!"

For the record, the drawer contained a used rubber glove.

To make it feel like we totally didn't waste the afternoon, we looked at all the (unlabeled) pictures lining the stairwells and flipped through the guest books. Although we'll have to go back to see the main attraction, the whole experience felt like this entry:

3 cheers for the either [sic] !!! :-) :-) :-) 

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