HOLDING HANDS WITH A 21-WEEK OLD FETUS – The famous story of Samuel Armas!

June 13, 2010

The story of Samuel Armas as a 21-week fetus: holding hands with the surgeon during a spina bifiday surgery.

- TRIBUTE: FETAL HAND DEVELOPMENT -

Samuel Alexander Armas (born December 2, 1999) became known as the child – shown in a famous photograph by Michael Clancy – that grasped his surgeon’s hand from a hole in his mother’s uterus during open fetal surgery for spina bifida.

The true story behind the photo!

The famous photograph was taken during a pioneering surgical procedure performed on August 19, 1999. At a mere 21 weeks of gestational age—long before it was time to leave his mother’s womb—Samuel underwent a bold and experimental surgical procedure to close a hole at the bottom of his spinal cord, the telltale characteristic of myelomeningocele, or spina bifida.

Samuel’s parents, Julie and Alex, could have terminated Julie’s pregnancy at 15 weeks when they learned about their son’s condition, which can result in lifelong physical and mental disabilities. But the Armases do not believe in abortion. Instead, in August 1999, they drove 250 miles from their home in Villa Rica, Ga., to Nashville, Tenn., where Dr. Joseph Bruner, of Vanderbilt University, performed a surgery bordering on the fantastical. Bruner cut into Julie’s abdomen, lifted her balloonlike uterus out of her body, made an incision in the taut muscle, removed the fetus, sewed up the spinal defect and tucked him back inside. Fifteen weeks later Samuel Armas “came out screaming,” says Julie. So far the story of Samuel Armas from Villa Rica, Georgia, US.

The story of Sarah Marie Switzer!

Sarah Marie Switzer's arm reaching out during a spina bifida surgery.

Actually, there’s another likewise picture circling the Internet with a full arm reaching out the uterus. But this arm belongs to Sarah Marie Switzer. The Switzer baby shot was taken by photographer Max Aguilera-Hellweg for LIFE magazine. During the, July 1, 1999, operation he captured the moment Dr. Bruner gently placed Sarah Marie’s hand back into the uterus. “She’s going to be beautiful,” he recalled saying. Her parents would agree when on August 22, 1999 almost two months after having the surgery Sarah Marie Switzer was born. Born nine weeks premature, doctors were amazed at the health of the baby and allowed Sarah Marie to go home with her parents in early Sept. Sarah Marie showed none of the signs of extreme spina bifida and even kicked her legs as an infant rare in most spina bifida patients.

A HOAX story?

Since then both photos have been used by opponents of abortion who asserted that that the baby reached through the womb and grabbed the doctor’s hand, thus showing signs of life at the 21st week of pregnancy.

But the truth appears to be a little different. For example, the surgeons have stated that during a spina bifida surgery both the mother and the fetus are under anesthesia and can not move. The surgerer of Samuel Armas declared:

“The baby did not reach out,” Dr Bruner said. “The baby was anesthetized. The baby was not aware of what was going on.” He also stated, “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.”

Obiously, things are often not what they appear to be… what’s your thought???

SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING:
Photo of a 10 week fetal hand!
The early development of the human hand in embryo life!
strange hands – more fascinating hand stories!

An example of how the case of Samuel Armas and the case of Sarah Marie Switzer where fused into one story.

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8 Responses to “HOLDING HANDS WITH A 21-WEEK OLD FETUS – The famous story of Samuel Armas!”


  1. […] 1999 a report was published about a boy (Samuel Armas) that grasped his surgeon’s hand from a hole in his mother’s uterus during open fetal surgery […]

  2. Kay Allen Says:

    Dr may have pulled his arm out but could not cause that grip on the finger. That response comes from the child. If completely anesthetized the child would be too limp to grip.
    Give life s chance. Admit to the power and fortitude of life itself.


  3. Wow, superb blog format! How long have you ever been blogging for? you make running a blog look easy. The total glance of your website is excellent, as smartly as the content!

  4. Kyles978 Says:

    The baby couldn’t reach out because it was anaesthetised, not because it wasn’t human. We all know babies move around in the womb exercising their growing muscles. What is amazing is the perfectly formed arm and fingers. These babies were not just blobs of cells, at 21 weeks these babies were fully formed with heart beats, brain waves, every organ intact and functioning. In fact babies born at 21 weeks can sometimes survive.

  5. horrez white Says:

    whats next…oh boy…..

  6. Slightly pissed-off Says:

    Yes, the so-called “pro-life” people found these two photos oh-so-very convenient to prove their point and shove their beliefs down everyone’s throat, once again DENYING scientific evidence. The fetus does NOT reach out! We don’t have evidence of a 21-week-old fetus reaching out of the womb to grab anyone’s finger, in a heart-touching gesture to make physical contact with another human being, thus showing emotional behaviour. We have a photo of a doctor who pulled the fetus’ arm out of the womb to hold it. It’s quite not the same thing, as hard as they might try to make clear that a fetus is a person. A person (a baby, for instance) might reach out to hold his mother’s finger. But a fetus is in the process of becoming a person.
    For the record, I’m don’t think anyone should get an abortion at 21 weeks of pregnancy, but it’s just irritating to see self-righteous pro-life activists using these photos as an argument to justify their opinion.

    • Army Mom Says:

      @ Slightly pissed-off ~ sooo…you’re saying the little arm and hand, because it’s small, does not belong to a person? The operation performed on an unborn baby was not really done on a person, because an unborn baby is ‘in the process of becoming a person’? If it’s not a person, why or how could they perform surgery to save his life? The pictures are real, the story might have been sensationalized a little, but clearly, this is a fully developed PERSON, at 21 weeks. Sleep well, for you were given the gift of life. I hope you appreciate it half as much as the child who was eventually born who survived this surgery…but, with a name like ‘Slightly pissed-off’, I’m sure you have a chip on your shoulder. (What does ‘so-called’ “pro-life” mean?) If you stumbled upon a trashcan and saw that there was a 5″ long fully developed baby in it, would YOU think it was a baby? Get off your ‘self righteous high horse’.


  7. I think that there is no question about the miracle which took place in these pictures. Whether the baby reached or the doctor did doesn’t really matter. What matters is that God worked through the faith of loving parents, through the expertise of a man who has developed tremendous God-given talents, and the desire of a living soul to gain its turn on Earth. Wonderful stories.

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