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Friday, June 15, 2007

The Story of My Banner (Painted by Johnny Meah)

Hanging outside the sideshow are usually a series of canvas paintings which advertise the acts on the inside. These canvas paintings are called "banners" and there still a few master painters around. One of the the most famous is Johnny Meah. When Johnny Meah speaks, his voice is so distinctive that once you hear it, you will NEVER forget it. If you click on the link you can hear it.

Anyways, I wanted to have a banner painted for my show. And, if I was going to get one done, why not get an original Meah....if I could afford it. These are collector's items. They hang in galleries. So, I left Meah an e-mail and lo and behold, one day, I get a call. I look at my cell phone and I catch a glimpse of the area code. It is one I was very familar with. "Johnny", I said, "where are you calling me from?" "Ohhh, its a small town in Florida, you probably don't know it...its called, Safety Harbor.".

I was stunned. "Uhhh....that's basically the town I grew up in." As it turns out, Meah, being an artist, was quite familiar with the most prestigious art gallery in Safety Harbor. His work has hung on those walls a number of times and he knows the owners of the gallery quite well.

Well funny thing is that we too know the owners of the gallery. In fact, my family has been close to them for over 35 years. Weirder still...the son of the gallery owners set me up with a young lady who became my wife.

It turns out, that I have been crossing paths with Johnny Meah for probably my whole life and didn't know it. My life might have been a lot different If I had known who he was....I might never have gone into medicine.

Doctor Performs Entire Operation Blindfolded!

Wouldn't that be an amazing headline?!? I can do it. I know how.

In 1943 there was a surgeon named R. Ofey who passed away. He was considered to have the best set of hands in his hospital, having honed his skills during World War I. In his small town in Iowa, hundreds of people gathered for the funeral of this beloved practitioner. He was always level-headed even during a challenging case. He had the lowest complication rates not just in his hospital, but in the state. He took his time. He was methodical. When there was a difficult case, he was always the first surgeon called.

But he also had some peculiar affects that the hospital staff simply could not understand. He refused to wear loops--the magnifying lenses doctors use to see small structures. However, whether or not he was operating, he did always wear a special set of dark glasses that colleagues assumed had special loops built in. He never asked to used the spotlight when suturing shut a patient. When he was operating and came to a particularly difficult part, he didn't use the typical maneuvers of mobilizing the organs into view--he didn't even seem to look at what he was doing. Instead he "did it by feel" reaching up into the body cavity out of visual site. Nothing irritated him more than when he asked his assistant for a particular surgical instrument and it was not put in his open, waiting hand in what Dr. Ofey would call "the right way". When asked about his techniques he simply stated, "Well, that was just how I was taught".

Upon his death, Dr. Ofey donated his body to science and allowed an autopsy to be performed by the local medical school. The medical community and the townspeople were stunned to learn that in fact, all this time, Dr. Ofey was blind. His eyes were congenitally absent from the day he was born. The medical school assumed there must have been some mistake, some mix-up. But his widow confirmed that indeed, Dr. Ofey had been blind his whole life.

Is it possible that surgeons could lower their complication rates by increasing the sensitivity of their hands? In an effort to learn how Dr. Ofey could have been so effective, I tried to interview his granddaughter and obtain a copy of his notes. There wasn't much there. But I believe I might have uncovered his technique. I think I could successfully complete an operation, while blindfolded....I know the secret. It is a method of increasing the sensitivity of the hands and finges beyond what we typically use. It is even more helpful to close the eyes and allow your fingertips to become your eyes.

Even though I know I can do it successfully, I don't think my malpractice would cover it. I don't think the hospital would allow it. I don't think there are any patient volunteers? But I can do it and if there are any tv crews that want to overcome those hurdles and film it...give me a call.

Videotaped Performance at Dante's

About two weeks ago, on a whim, I decided to perform at Dante's . It was very last minute but I still rocked the house. Instead of a small store-bought can of soup or beans to smash my hand, I used a massive, industrial-sized pizza sauce can they had in the back kitchen. And a go-go dancer was on hand to wrap my head in the saran wrap. I had terrific support from my friends Ken Magee and Reed McClintock.