This amazing photo, taken by Michael Clancy and originally published in The Tennessean and USA Today on September 7, 1999, is real and authentic. It "went viral" via forwarded email within weeks of its first appearance in newspapers.
It should have been 'The Picture of the Year,' or perhaps, 'Picture of the Decade.' It wasn’t and unless you obtained a copy of The Tennessean and USA Today which published it or were on someone’s email list that forwarded it, you probably would never have seen it.
The picture is that of a 21-week-old unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas, who is being operated on by surgeon named Joseph Bruner.
The baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and would not survive if removed from his mother's womb. Little Samuel's mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta . She knew of Dr. Bruner's remarkable surgical procedure. Practicing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, he performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb.
During the procedure, the doctor removes the uterus via C-section and makes a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr.Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed Hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon's finger. Dr.Bruner was reported as saying that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile.
There are actually 3 versions or interpretations of this poignant moment caught on film:
- Viral text: "During the surgery on little Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed, hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon's finger."
- Photographer Michael Clancy: "Samuel came out from under anesthesia too soon and thrust his clenched fist out of the surgical opening to his mother's womb. In my opinion, Samuel was in pain. Dr. Joseph Bruner reached over and gently lifted Samuel's hand, and Samuel reacted by squeezing the doctor's finger."
- Surgeon Joseph Bruner:"Depending on your political point of view, this is either Samuel Armas reaching out of the uterus and touching the finger of a fellow human, or it's me pulling his hand out of the uterus ... which is what I did." (Quoted in The Tennessean, Jan. 9, 2000)
Perhaps it all boils down to semantics. Dr. Bruner has stated elsewhere that Samuel's hand "appeared" in the uterine opening before he reached out and lifted it, lending credence to photographer Clancy's version of events. In any case, although it appears the email does exaggerate when it says the fetus "reached ... through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon's finger," something akin to that really did happen.
Such quibbles don't lessen the impact of the photograph itself, which Dr. Bruner has described as "powerful" and Michael Clancy calls "miraculous." It should come as no surprise that both the image and Samuel Armas' success story have figured prominently in the abortion debate ever since.
The photograph captured this amazing event with perfect clarity. The editors titled the picture, 'Hand of Hope.' The text explaining the picture begins, 'The tiny hand of 21-week- old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas emerges from the mother's uterus to grasp the finger of Dr. Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the gift of life.'
Little Samuel's mother said they 'wept for days' when they saw the picture. She said, 'The photo reminds us pregnancy isn't about disability or an illness, it's about a little person.' Samuel was born in perfect health, the operation 100 percent successful.
Here is the actual picture, and it is awesome...incredible....and worth sharing. The world really needs to see this one!