A placenta for good luck?

A few years ago I had a patient that needed his prostate removed for cancer. He lived on a farm in North Georgia and always came to the office by himself, I never saw his wife or family, and he was always in overalls. He was a big man, stout looking and had a very thick walrus like mustache. At the time he decided to have a prostatectomy he told me that he did not want any, “mind altering drugs” and that he wanted to be in control of his faculties at all times. We decided to do the surgery with an epidural.

At the time of the procedure, contrary to what we normally do with epidural patients, he would not allow the anesthesiologist to administer any other meds of any kind. The result of this was that he was completely awake while I was working. The problem with this was that he was very talkative and continued to ask me questions about how things were going. This was very distracting to me as the case was not an easy one because of his size  and his anatomy as it related to the prostate. I made a motion with my eyes to have the anesthesiologist sneak him something to at least let him drift off a bit and give me some peace and quite while we worked. The second the medicine went in the patient almost jumped off the operating room table exclaiming,”You gave me something. You gave me something. I can feel something in my body. I told you not to do that.” I suffer through the rest of the case of incessant questions, however, he did tell a story that I will always remember.

He began telling us about things he does to ward off  disease and bad luck. The day of his surgery was chosen by him because based on the Farmer’s Almanac his “blood would be down.” And then he said that he had requested and obtained his wife’s placenta for each of his eight children.”What I do with them is bury them under a newly planted tree for good luck.” This piqued my interest just as the prostate was being removed and the bleeding controlled. “You’ve done that for each child? Eight times?” “Yes  I have, all of them except that last one, he’s eight now.” “What did you do with the placenta, do you still have it?” I asked. “Oh sure. I am just waiting to get the right tree to plant. I’ve kept the placenta in our freezer! It will be fine until we’re ready.” As I completed the anastomosis of the bladder to the urethra, I began to think about the frozen tomato paste sitting next to the eight year old placenta and likelihood of boiling the placenta by mistake and put  over pasta.

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