“Anatomy is to Physiology, as Geography is to History;
It describes the theater of events”
State 39: Maryland - May 4-7, 2018
Lori and I spent the past four days off the road in Fredericksburg, VA visiting with my family. Fredericksburg is a historic town with a population of 30,000 featuring an adorable bustling historic downtown with all of the modern amenities one would need nearby. Virginia was the 3rd state on our cross country trip, and has already been eliminated as our new home state, which you can read about by clicking here. There is nothing more infuriating than finding an adorable town meeting all of our wants and needs in a state we have no desire to live in. Had Fredericksburg not been located in Virginia, we may have considered it as our new home. When our cross country trip is over, it would be interesting to construct a blog post of our favorite town in each state we visited. Fredricksburg was certainly my favorite town in Virginia.
During my visit with my Aunt, Uncle and Cousins, I had fun walking their three Chihuahua's; Kiki, Mona Lisa, and Macho Man, watching inspirational movies, relaxing on the deck on a warm sunny Virginia afternoon, visiting art galleries in downtown Fredericksburg, cooking crepes in the kitchen, partaking in peculiar foods; such as banana ketchup and engaging in long reflective and therapeutic talks from our collective consciousness. The four days we spent with my Aunt and her family went far too fast. My Aunt was a gracious host, and each of my four cousins are truly amazing people! Be forewarned, my sweet and adorable 11-year-old cousin Aryanna is absolutely ruthless when it comes to board games! LOL!!! I will certainly make a point to keep in touch with my Aunt and Cousins regardless of how far Fredericksburg may be from my future home! After a tearful goodbye, the time had come for the Cross Country Couple to continue on our journey. Please see the pictures below of our visit!
After departing my Aunt's home in Fredericksburg, we drove 68 miles Northeast to the 39th state on our cross country journey to discover America and find a new state to call home; Maryland: "We’re Open For Business". I may not the best at keeping up to date on current events, but when did Maryland go out of business? At the very least, Maryland should publicly post their hours of operation if they are advertising being “Open for business”! Who in the world comes up with such stupid state slogans! Nevertheless, will Maryland’s industrious economic spirit inspire the Cross Country Couple to call the state our new home? We can’t wait to begin our week of exploration in Maryland!
The first item on the agenda is a 2.5 mile drive Northeast to National Harbor, MD for the Cross Country Couple's “Roadside Attraction” for Maryland: The Awakening. Created by John Steward Johnson in 1980, the aluminium sculpture was originally placed in East Potomac Park in Washington D.C, and was sold to a developer in 2008 to be installed in National Harbor, MD at a specially built beach. “The Awakening” consists of five separately sculpted pieces proportionately embedded in the earth giving the impression of a 72-foot-tall angry giant struggling to free himself from the ground! While the left hand and right foot barely protrude from the sand, the bent left leg extends high into the air, and right arm and hand reach 17 feet out of the ground towards the sky! Most provoking of all of the giant's appendages is his bearded face with mouth in mid-scream as he struggles to emerge from beneath! “The Awakening” is not our first encounter with a giant on our cross country trip, which you can read more about by clicking here. As you can clearly tell, our first giant was more Jolly, but If I was a giant buried in the beach, I would likely be a tad cranky too. In all seriousness, “The Awakening” was among the most impressive and haunting works of art I have encountered. If you need an additional reason to see the sculpture for yourself, nowhere else are you able to take a selfie next to an eight-foot-tall foot, or sit in the palm of a six-foot-tall hand. Please see the pictures below.
THE FOLLOWING DEPICTS GRAPHIC PICTURES OF HUMAN BODY PARTS FOR SCIENTIFIC AND HISTORICAL STUDY, AND MAY NOT BE APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNG VIEWERS. VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED!!!
After departing “The Awakening” in National Harbor, we drove 32 miles North to the Cross Country Couple’s “Can’t Miss Attraction” for Maryland; National Museum of Health and Medicine. Established in 1862 by U.S. Army Surgeon; General William A. Hammond, the National Museum of Health and Medicine is a National Historic Landmark whose mission is to identify, collect, preserve, display, and interpret pertinent information and artifacts to promote the understanding of the past, present and future of medicine. Tourists, families with children, Civil War buffs, researchers, students on field trips, scientists, authors, and of course medical professionals such as myself, are among the museums 55,000 annual visitors! In all honesty, your mind has to be wired in a certain way to enjoy this museum. Understandably, many may be disturbed and disgusted by viewing human bones shattered by bullets and diseased body parts forever suspended in formaldehyde. However, if you possess an appreciation for Human Anatomy, the history of Medicine and an innate curiosity of the disease process, then the National Museum of Health and Medicine offers an experience like no other. This museum is one of the few places where the public can view the effects of disease on the human body and history of the patients affected. In total, the museum houses 24,662,515 relics, although a mere fraction is actually on display. Best of all, admission is free! If you are ready let’s go explore this museum together.
National Museum of Health and Medicine is divided up into three galleries: “Anatomy and Pathology”, “Military Medicine”, and The Collection That Teaches. From an actual slice of Einstein’s brain to the exact bullet which took Lincoln’s life, the quantity and quality of artifacts on display would keep you busy for hours if not days. Therefore, I will briefly highlight my favorite exhibits from each gallery.
Anatomy and Pathology
The first exhibit we visited focuses on examining the complexity of the human body as a interrelated system to maintain health. It is only by first studying normal anatomical specimens, can injuries and disease be properly identified. Below are pictures of actual specimens of healthy human organs which include: heart, brain, spinal cord, liver, stomach, skeleton, kidneys, reproductive organs, hands and more! Please see the pictures below.
Now that we have viewed normal Human Anatomy, we will now examine Human Pathology or the effects of disease on the structures of the body specifically focusing on the brain. From man landing on the moon, to the genocide of 9 million people during the Holocaust, the brain is responsible for both humanities greatest achievements, and histories greatest atrocities. The human brain is undeniably a miraculous organ, and to this day science still does not fully understand exactly how it operates. The human brain is entirely encapsulated within your skull, and floats within a thin layer of fluid called Cerebral Spinal Fluid or CSF. It is important to understand there is not a whole lot of extra space up there in your noggin! Ironically, despite the brains endless impressive attributes, the only thing it is capable of doing when it is injured is bleeding and swelling.
The first form of brain injury to discuss is a cerebral hemorrhage, or bleeding of the brain. cerebral hemorrhage is a life threatening condition most commonly resulting from a chronic high blood pressure, but can also be caused by trauma to the head. The signs and symptoms of cerebral hemorrhage vary greatly from a simple headache to coma and death, and may develop suddenly or get progressively worse in the following days and weeks. As the bleeding continues, pressure builds within the skull cavity, the severity of symptoms increase, and death is inevitable without immediate medical intervention. Please see the pictures below of actual brains, which have experienced cerebral hemorrhages.
The next type of brain injury is called coup countercoup. A coup countercoup injury occurs when the head is brought to a sudden stop causing the brain to slam into the front of the skull, and the force of the impact sends the brain bouncing against the back of the skull. The result is injuries occurring to both the front and back of the brain even if there was no external impact to their head. The brain responds to the damage sustained by swelling within an enclosed skull, and the prognosis is quite poor unless the pressure is relieved! Similar to other types of traumatic brain injuries, symptoms vary greatly from a simple headache to coma and death, and may develop suddenly or get progressively worse in the following day and weeks. Countercoup brain injuries are most commonly seen in motor vehicle accidents, and “shaken babies”, but football players and wrestlers are also at high risk. This is why you should always get an MRI after any suspected blow to the head, or car accidents to rule out coup countercoup injuries. The pictures below show brains of those who likely did not take this advice.
Some types of brain injuries are less clinical and more blatantly obvious. The brains below were sustained in traumatic injury from gunshots, stab wounds, and impact by a blunt object. You do not have to be a neurologist to tell the prognosis of the people to whom these brains once belonged was quite poor. Please see the pictures below.
The second gallery we visited focuses on the evolution of medicine in the military of the past 200 years. From building a better fly trap to preventing spreading of disease, to the evolution of field surgical kits to increase survival rates, this gallery interprets medical innovations from the Civil War up to present day! The most interesting artifact on display was Balad Floor. From 2003 to 2007 during Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Balad Floor was in Trauma Bay 2 in the ER of the US Air Force Balad Theater Hospital. On this cold concrete slab, the heroic and coordinated efforts of surgeons, medics, physicians, and nurses provided the best trauma care in the world to critically wounded, contractors, police, coalition forces, civilians, the Iraqi Army, and US Servicemen. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, more lives were saved on this floor than any other single spot! Today, The Balad Floor offers visitors a powerful and somber focal point of the hallowed ground where the price of our freedom was paid. Please see the pictures below.
The Collection That Teaches
The final exhibit of the museum displays a fraction of the 25 million artifacts related to America’s history of heath and medicine. A few of the most noteworthy displays include: a spine in-bedded with an arrow, lung cancer, leg elephantitus, and the throat of a person who choked to death while eating steak, which is one more reason to be a vegetarian! Sorry if I sound insensitive, but when is the last time you heard someone die from choking on a green bean? I rest my case!!! Please see the pictures below.
One of the most disturbing displays featured four display cases of traumatic bone fractures recovered from the major Civil War battlefields of: Anteitum, Shiloh, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg among others. Some of the broken bones still had bullets embedded, and you could clearly see where the bones were cut during amputation. Displaying the skeletal remains of the deceased proved a powerful and haunting way to share the horrors of the 600,000+ Americans who died in the Civil War. Please see the pictures below.
I saved the museum's crown jewel for last! In Illinois, I walked into Lincoln's bedroom and visited his gravesite which you can read about by clicking here. In Michigan, I saw the exact chair where Lincoln sat when he was assassinated, which you can read about by clicking here. While in Minnesota, I even saw Lincoln’s personal horse drawn carriage, which you can read about by clicking here. With 39 states explored, I have certainly seen a lot of Lincoln! If you are a hardcore Lincoln enthusiast as am I, the National Museum of Health and Medicine offers artifacts related to our 16th President, which puts all of the aforementioned to shame. On display, skull fragments and hair samples recovered at autopsy, blood stained sleeves from the President’s personal Doctor, the probe the Doctor inserted into the head wound to locate the assassin's bullet, and the exact bullet which ended Lincolns life. While it is all very disturbing, from a historical perspective it is also quite fascinating!
Please see additional pictures below of our visit to the National Museum of Health and Medicine.
After departing the National Museum of Health and Medicine, we drove 17 miles West to Bowie where we found a Walmart to spend the night.