“As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them.” Luke 4:40
I recall the startling jolt I received when I first saw this picture and read the story associated with it. I was in the public library in Junction City, Oregon, the magazine in which the image appeared was outdated, and (confession coming) I wanted to tear out that page and keep it. I resisted that evil urge, though, and left the magazine intact. I’ve never forgotten that tiny baby hand holding onto his “saviour”, nor do I suppose I ever will.
A striking message is here: Each of us need other human beings. We need to stroke them, to be with them, to depend on them…We need to heal people by touch, by grasping their hands, by offering a finger. Jesus did, our supreme example, our Master, our Teacher. And though we cannot heal as He did, we are commanded to “heal the sick,” to touch people, to “lay hands” on the needy.
Dr. Joseph Bruner at Vanderbilt is known for his work in fetal surgery, especially on babies with spina bifida, a condition in which the spine does not close properly during development. Vanderbilt confirms that little Samuel Armus was 21 weeks-old in the womb which makes the surgery very risky because if anything goes wrong, the baby cannot survive on its own. Dr. Bruner and his colleagues, however, have done numerous successful spina bifida surgeries on fetuses that are not yet viable. In this particular surgery, the baby’s hand poked out of the incision in its mother’s womb and Dr. Bruner says he instinctively offered his finger for the baby to hold. Most versions of the story say the baby reached out and grasped Dr. Bruner’s finger, but in an article in USA Today on May 2, 2000, Dr. Bruner says both the mother and the baby were under anesthesia and could not move. Michael Clancy, the photographer who took the picture and who owns the copyright to it says, however, that out of the corner of his eye he saw the uterus shake and the baby’s hand pop out of the surgical opening on its own. Clancy says that when the doctor put his finger into the baby’s hand, the baby squeezed the finger and held on. You can read Clancy’s description of the experience and more about the picture at his website at www.michaelclancy.com.
Update: The surgery was successful and little Samuel Armas was born on December 2, 1999, and has been developing well, according to his parents, Alex and Julie Armas.