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Outreach in the OR
Midwest Region, November 17, 2009
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I think that I have a pretty cool job - but I wasn’t thinking about that when we were sent to the hospital for the birth of our daughter. Things were pretty busy in Labor and Delivery. I was quickly hooked up to the fetal heart monitor and assured that my delivery nurse would be by to talk to me soon.

About an hour later Denise came in and began getting my medical history and other pertinent information. Among the dozens of questions was…"Where do you work?" When I answered with "US Fish & Wildlife Service", Denise paused for a second, looked up and excitedly asked "So what do you do there?"

Colby and I explained that we are working to recover a federally endangered fish in the Missouri River - to which she replied ,"Oh, you work on pallid sturgeon!" I was quite surprised. It isn’t often that people are familiar with this imperiled fish that lives in their own backyard. It turns out that Denise and her husband are self-described "river rats" and use the Missouri River recreationally year round. Denise and her husband even participated in the Missouri River 340, a kayak and canoe race from Kansas City to St. Charles.

For the next full day, Denise not only attended to my medical needs and comfort, but she also stopped to chat as time allowed her - asking questions and telling stories of her own experiences on the river. As strange as this may sound, it was a real comfort and a great distraction to talk about the plight of the pallid sturgeon and working on the river while in labor.

The story doesn’t end there. After some excitement in the labor room (the baby’s heart rate dropped), I was whisked into the operating room for an emergency cesarean. I will spare everyone the gory details, but Gabriella was born without too much incident (though she had the umbilical cord loosely wrapped around her neck twice and over the top of her head - which caused the drop in her heart rate) weighing in at a hefty 8 pounds and 20.25 inches.

She and Colby were quickly sent to the nursery to get her warmed, bathed and evaluated. I was left incapacitated on the operating table to be stitched back together. Dr. Thies (also very interested in our work) has a great sense of humor and commented that she would "have me back working on the boat in my bikini in no time!" I replied that it was too cold to pull gill nets in a bikini at this time of year. As this got a laugh from Dr. Thies and Denise, it prompted the anesthetist to ask what we were talking about.

Without hesitation, I began explaining where we work and what we do. Everyone in the operating room began asking questions. They were especially interested to find out about the reproductive history of the pallid sturgeon. The anesthetist excitedly began telling his experiences of growing up in Russia and fishing for Beluga sturgeon with his family. He was quite knowledgeable about caviar and the current restricti

ons on Russian sturgeon. We were still talking about sturgeon when I was returned to the labor and delivery room where Colby was waiting for me. The look of disbelief on his face was amusing. We had just experienced the most dramatic and poignant event of our lives - and here I was talking about pallid sturgeon. I guess that it is true, I have a pretty cool job,and I love working even when I am not "on the clock".

Contact Info: Patricia Herman, 573-234-2132 x170, Patricia_Herman@fws.gov



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