Places in D.C.: Walter Reed Army Medical Facility

I heard the stories. I heard of the several different artifacts and it’s history. Stepping through the front doors, I was greeted kindly by a gentleman at the front desk. He addressed a few guidelines, signed me in and sent me on my way to my experience. I took a step onto the carpet and looked in both directions, not knowing which way to go first.

Everywhere around you could point out the detail in highly decorated, if not authentic representations of medical history; facts and models. I found the majority of the exhibits very intriguing and couldn’t help but read some of the artifacts purpose for display. It was such a peaceful environment for an early Sunday afternoon. I, along with two or three other folks were the only people there. I took advantage of this moment by taking my sweet time reading and observing as much as I could; worrying little about loud noise, field trips and children crowding the way.

Exhibit 1: Arsenic (Decomposed Head)

An upper torso of a young woman was on display. Apparently she was the victim of Arsenic. Arsenic is a semi-metallic chemical element that is a deadly poison. It can be found in some of your daily life metals, copper, tin and many others. The torso was preserved for donation to the armed forces Institute of Pathology.

Exhibit 2: Frost Bite (Cold Toes)

Peeping through the glass and glancing at the pictures I was able to see a model foot of a person with frostbite. Frostbite occurs when the tissue and blood freezes and can happen to any part of the body. At it’s worst, frostbite can contain gangrene, in which too much exposure to blistering cold temperatures kill the skin and underlying tissues.

Exhibit 3: Warts (Rashes, breaking out)

I couldn’t believe the condition of how warts could look on a person. I do know that it is contagious and likely to appear on body parts that are susceptible to scrape injuries. I am also aware of warts being caused by viruses, one of those viruses is
through sexually transmitted diseases. (STD).

Exhibit 4: Scrofuloderma (The swollen neck)

On display was a wax model of a gentleman who suffered from Scrofuloderma. Scrofuloderma is a condition of tuberculosis where the nodes underneath the skin are exposed. The model’s neck was covered completely. Lumpy and swollen glands bulged from underneath of his chin, covering his neck and top portion of the shoulders.

Exhibit 5: Brain: (Brain in a glass)

Persevered in a slim cylinder glass was a display of the human brain still connected to the spinal cord. It looked so real, I wondered if it really was or not. It was housed inside of the cylinder glass; motionless, surrounded by the tiny fragments which
implied that it had been in there for some time. It was taken from a cadaver.

Exhibit 6: Walter Reed (Walter Reed Army Medical Center)

On a marble stand, it was a wax design of the actual predecessor of this building, Walter Reed. Reed was acknowledged for his idea in finding the solution to solving yellow fever. Yellow fever was a disease believed to have been transported through mosquitoes. Reed eliminated the stagment water, used by these nuisances to open the new path onto discovery. He died fairly new into the 20th century from an appendix disease. In 1909, this facility was named after him.

Exhibit 7: Anencephaly: (Fragile Innocence)

Preserved inside of a glass only large enough to house a developing infant was an example of birth defect. It was the fourth month of development, apparently this infant was discovered with this defect. Anencephaly is incompatible with life outside of the uterus. In some cases, babies may live on for a few days or so, most of them die at birth. Poor infant, his spine was shaped like a question mark, shaped as if he knew his tiny frame would be preserved inside of glass His eyes were bulging out of his head as if he had seen a ghost. He never had a chance to make it.

Exhibit 8: Achondroplastic: (Fragile Innocence)

On display was another child who experience a dwarfism defect. It was a DNA defect passed on by the parents to this offspring. However, it is a rare condition among births. The tiny infant child’s face was mushy and full of muscle as if he died in tears; His small fingers gripping the glass that housed him for however long.

Exhibit 9: 9/11 (Pentagon Attacks.)

I was only seventeen at the time of this American tragedy. The pictures brought back memories of the incredible devastation and the toll it took on the United States. Actual pictures were on display showing the stricken building. Surrounding the pentagon were scenes of burning automobiles, people struggling for air escaping the smoke, death,
EMT’s, ambulances and all other types of emergency rescue units. Some were fortunate
to escape with their lives, where as others, weren’t so fortunate.

Exhibit 10: Artificial limbs: (Legs)

Preserved inside of this glass case were various different designs of artificial limbs ranging from the 19th century to the modern era. By paying attention closely, I was able to notice the difference in evolution as the limbs became more and more sophisticated. Some didn’t even have a foot attached. It wasn’t until the middle portion of the 20th century where feet became a critical attachment.

Exhibit 11: Gunshot wound: (War Veteran)

Casualties of war? What about survivors of war and the long-term effects that follow them for the rest of their lives? Here on display a victim of war who suffered from the effects of a gunshot wound to the face. Before and after pictures instilled the seriousness from the effect of bullets on flesh; his disfigured and mutilated face before surgery, then after surgery. A victim of war, more than likely sent home, but unknown and barely recognizable.

Exhibit 12: In harms way (Band-aids)

Evolution was inevitable, numerous and different style of band-aids and dressings known for the aide of military soldiers were on display. One of the main causes on the battlefield is blood loss. Through time and evolution, soldiers began to receive better treatment as resources and ingredients were under better development.

Exhibit 13: Lives saved, limbs lost (Missing pieces)

In order to save a life, something else must die. In this case, it’s your own limb. On display were pictures of several limbs piled outside of a hospital after amputation. The procedure of amputation can result from several different causes; two are diseases or severe damage to a limb or other body part.

Exhibit 14: Final Casualty of War: (A. Lincoln)

He signed the emancipation proclamation, wore the robe of presidency for the United States, and was executed in brutal fashion while attending a show at the ford theatre. Preserved on display were several photographs of his life, the actual bone fragments, the bullet that killed him and locks of his hair. Before his death, Lincoln attended the Ford theatre in Washington where he was shot in the back of the head. He never regained consciousness that dreadful day on April 14, 1865, but finally stop breathing, ending his life on April 15, 1865 at 7:20 am.

Exhibit 15: Battle Fronts: (Troop vests)

Different styles of army flak jackets were on display, ranging from earlier days of war. Through the years, advancement of technology, idealistic creators, and army personnel are the experts at determining what works out in the field.

Exhibit 16: What’s in a drop of blood (Blood)

On display were the facts concerning what makes a drop of blood.

*Plasma – it’s rich fluid in which cells are suspended.
*Red Cells – Transport oxygen and carbon dioxide.
*White Cells – Fight off infectious diseases and viruses.
*Platelets – Essential part of the body’s defense against bleeding.

Exhibit 17: Circulation, Heart and Head: (Head with mad veins)

It was a fascinating sculpture of a model heart and skull on display. It manifested how the heart and the circulatory system function together. A screaming skull statue, decorated in blue veins and red arteries crawling around the cranium. The statue was a unique representation.

Exhibit 18: Skin: Your suit of armor (Skin)

Preserved was an interesting summary of how the skin works. I learned how its primary function is to protect the body from the environment. All around you, everyday, are germs, bacteria and temperatures that can damage your internal organs. Without skin, the internal section of the body is more susceptible to disease and infections.

Exhibit 19: C leg (Sophisticated Walking)

On display was a prosthetic leg for amputation patients. This was one of the most unique exhibits throughout the museum! This “magic” leg is equipped with microprocessors to adapt to each individuals movements. Feel the urge to walk, run? Sprint? No problem, this leg can make the necessary adjustments to allow you to do so.

Exhibit 20: From a single cell (Baby Evolution)

I decided to end my visit at the facility with another look at child evolution. It was interesting. Lined closely were small glasses that contained fetuses in the process of development. They looked so gentle, yet fragile lying in the shallow cups of water that housed them. Further down, statues of bone structure ranged from pregnancy development up to the age of five. Compared to the tiny fetuses and younger children in evolution, the five year old looked as if it were the bones of an adult.

Overall, I enjoyed my experience at the Museum and would definitely recommend it for field trips, learning experiences and just for the sake of going. There were several other exhibits in the museum, but I choose to pick the ones that captured my attention the most. Upon exiting, I stepped past the thick metal door and looked around, out into the world; once before, so unaware of the importance of the term, “Wellness.”

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