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My Love Affair With Medical Waste

My Love Affair With Medical Waste

I’m an obsessive-compulsive collector. So is my dad.

Raised in a morgue, I worked alongside Dad, the city medical examiner. Over 50 years, he amassed a huge collection of medical artifacts. My siblings don’t want any of it. So now I’m the curator of the collection.

Dad carefully ships the specimens to me. Today, I open my mailbox and discover a bag full of pacemakers and pessaries, a priority package of bullets—all retrieved from human bodies.

Physician family heirlooms. Some see only medical waste. But I see marvel and mystery, beauty and art, and mostly my love of medicine—a love I share with my dad.

I don’t believe in throwing away people or parts of people or parts of people’s stories. I can’t discard the device that saved a woman’s life or the bullet that took a man’s breath away.

And so my bedroom is a museum of medical art, a morgue of half-lived lives, of hopes and dreams, lost and found—all in a one-of-a-kind collection of pacemakers and pessaries, bullets and bones that live near my necklaces and nightgowns.

I’m a doctor and a storyteller. One day, I shall tell the untold stories of unnamed people I’ve never met. And I shall bring their medical waste back to life.

Pamela Wible, MD, pioneered the first community-designed ideal medical clinic in America. She is author of Pet Goats & Pap Smears and writes for The Oregonian.

Contact Dr. Wible.

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