• Jesus: Our Lord, Savior, and Plastic Surgeon

    Savior-Statue636363-29_1

    Today is Easter, the day that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.  He died for all of humanity’s sins, and his death and resurrection ensures that anyone who believes in him will be saved, and go to heaven.

    I’ve always been fascinated by the many healing miracles of Jesus, and as a plastic surgeon, I know what took place beneath the skin of his ‘patients.’  Without sacrilege, I can honestly report that some of the New Testament miracles could occur today with antibiotics, surgery, or speech therapy.  However, many miracles remain, well, MIRACLES.

    As you are aware, the interwebz knows almost everything.  But my diligent searching reveals no surgeon who has yet explained the conditions and cures of Jesus’ miracles.  That changes NOW, with my surgical analysis of the plastic surgery miracles.

     

    Otoplasty in the Garden of Gethsemane

    Hand Reconstruction

    More Miracles Where Those Came From

    Jesus Promises that Others will do Greater Things

     

    Otoplasty in the Garden of Gethsemane

    The most obvious plastic surgery miracle I could find was when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He was betrayed by Judas, and arrested in the evening, to be tried and sentenced by the Romans.

    Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples was quick to protect him.  Peter used a sword and cut off the right ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest.  Jesus healed the severed ear by touching Malchus’ wound, and the missing ear was miraculously healed.

    As a man in an ancient garden with nothing but a toga, I would not have been able to reattach Malchus’ ear.  But today, a plastic surgeon could repair the severed ear with microsurgery.  The ear would have to have a very clean cut.  Preferably, doctors would like to get the loose ear in a plastic bag, submerged in ice and water, within 8 hours of it’s separation from the body.

    **For future severed body part reference, you do NOT want to place the body part on pure ice, lest you unintentionally cause frost bite.  We want it cold, but not frozen-  not in direct contact with the ice.  The mixture of ice and water ensures that the body part will not freeze.

    The bible doesn’t say anything about ziplock bags, coolers or even ice, so we can presume Jesus wasn’t working under ideal plastic surgery conditions.

    The ear is a difficult place to get a good microvascular result, because the blood vessels feeding it are tiny and may even be random.  The high cartilage content of the ear makes matters even worse, because cartilage has poor blood flow.

    In the operating room, a surgeon would clean up the severed body part before re-attaching it to the body using a microscope, because the blood vessels are so tiny.  Microsurgery is necessary for a surgeon to find and reattach at least 1 artery and 1 vein.  Once that’s done, there is also the matter of placement and symmetry.  To do a full blown reattachment of a completely severed ear is a difficult operation, and although it can be done today, NO WAY could we do it instantaneously without surgical tools and supplies.  That’s all Jesus.

     

    References (all ESV/ English Standard Version)

    Luke 22:50-51:

    50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. 51 But Jesus said, No more of this! And he touched his ear and healed him.

    John 18:10:

    10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priests servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servants name was Malchus.)

     

    Hand Reconstruction

    Jesus was in a synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand.  His enemies, the Pharisees, wanted to see if Jesus would miraculously repair this hand.  If Jesus repaired it, then he would technically be “working”, which is a violation of the Sabbath, a day of rest.

    Jesus knew the Bible better than the Pharisees, and asked them rhetorically if it was OK to do good on the Sabbath, or to do harm.  The Pharisees were fuming, because they were caught in a trap.  If they said “good”, then Jesus could cure this man with a withered hand-  and would technically be “working” on the Sabbath.  If the Pharisees said “harm”, then they would be rightfully viewed as callous, mean, and cruel to this poor man with a non-functional hand.

    The Pharisees didn’t answer, and just fumed as Jesus did the right thing and miraculously made this man’s withered hand completely normal.

    Hand Surgery is a subset of plastic surgery, orthopedic surgery, and general surgery.  You spend an extra year of training, also known as a fellowship, to learn about the intricacies of hand surgery.  I did such a Hand Surgery fellowship in addition to my Plastic Surgery Fellowship.

    A ‘withered hand’ refers to a hand, wrist, forearm, upper arm, or a combination of these structures, where the hand is not functioning normally, and is smaller and thinner than an average hand.  The muscles, nerves, tendons, and other soft tissue structures have withered away, resulting in a hand that is stiff and completely non-functional.  It’s like living with an inanimate, non-moving hand on the end of your arm.

    There are many reasons why a hand could be in such a condition.  Causes could include congenital defect, trauma to the soft tissue (crush injury), poor blood flow, infection, previous burn injury, and accidental lacerations to the major nerves of the hand.

    Talk about a surgically difficult case.! First, you’d have to figure out what muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and bones were damaged.  Second, you’d have to fix them.  Even if you were able to fix some damage, the next challenge would be to confirm that the nerves controlling the muscles/ bones/ ligaments/ tendons functioned and could be controlled by the brain.

    There are so many things that could go wrong,  it’s mind boggling.  I’ll just list the major ones:

    Scar tissue might inhibit smooth function

    Thin, damaged nerves may not regenerate

    Burns may require microsurgery to cover the hands with pliable tissue

    Pain might necessitate weeks or months of hand therapy

    Compromised blood vessels may need grafting to increase blood flow

    Tendons may be reconstructed via tendon transfer  borrowing a tendon from an undamaged area of the body, and using it to reconstruct the damaged tendon.  But as you might imagine, few other tendons are suitable as hand tendons.  Even if the surgery is perfect, there is no guarantee that the nerves controlling the newly grafted tendons will function properly.

    Bottom line: repairing a severely damaged hand to normal is a tough and often impossible task, even with modern advances in plastic surgery and tissue regeneration.   

    Jesus performed this miracle instantly, and the man was whole again.  As far as professional journals go, this utterly amazing medical wonder rightly deserves documentation in the most widely circulated book of all time (the Bible) over the span of centuries.

     

    References

    Mark 3:1-6

    3 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus,[a] to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, Come here. 4 And he said to them, Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill? But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, Stretch out your hand. He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

    Matthew 12:9-14

    9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath. 13 Then he said to the man, Stretch out your hand. And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

    Luke 6:6-11

    6 On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, Come and stand here. And he rose and stood there. 9 And Jesus said to them, I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it? 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, Stretch out your hand. And he did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

    Praise

    More Miracles Where Those Came From

    Jesus did many other miracles in the Bible; I have here only zeroed in on the ones which qualify as plastic surgery.  The Bible does NOT record all of the many miracles that Jesus did-  and I’m certain that some of the undocumented ones were also plastic surgery oriented.

    References

    John 20:30

    30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;

    John 21:25

    25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

     

    Jesus Promises that Others will do Greater Things

    One of Jesus’ great predictions, was that in the future, many miracles would be done by other Christians.  My interpretation is that you don’t have to be a disciple from Jesus’ inner circle to do healing acts.  Many unnamed and unknown people help and heal others.  I have witnessed this as a matter of fact, in my years of medical experience.

    C. S. Lewis coined the phrase chronological snobbery, which loosely means that earlier thinking was wrong or inferior, and that our more “modern” way of thinking is correct.

    But of course we modern doctors are not superior; we all stand on the shoulders of giants.  Pioneering surgeons who came before us, (including Jesus!) had less technology, fewer experiments and no example of the surgical procedures we now take for granted.

    Modern surgeons have the opportunity to use and synthesize past truths, experiments, knowledge, and science to get a greater understanding of how the human body works today.

    The future of plastic surgery is very bright.  We use stem cells derived from liposuction fat, to create and generate new human organs.  We are on the cusp of slowing down aging in a meaningful and measurable way.  Horrible traumatic accidents, which in the past would have resulted in death or significant handicaps, are now surgically repaired, and where repair isn’t an option, we have better prosthetics than anyone would have dreamed of 10 or 20 years ago.

    So, on this Easter Sunday, I’m reminded that no matter how far I’ve come as a surgeon, I’m still no Jesus.  I’ll thank God for his resurrection and be humbled and grateful for the continued work and advancements in plastic surgery, which pave the way for me to help patients heal, both in the US and abroad.

    Have a Happy Easter!

     

    References

    Chronological Snobbery

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronological_snobbery

     

    Mark 16: 15-18

    15 He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.

    John 14:12

    12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

     

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