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20 Years After the Septuplet’s Birth

On November 17th, 1997, something unique happened in Des Moines Iowa, which had never been recorded in human history. A set of Sextuplets (seven siblings) was successfully delivered to the McCaugheys. Kenni and Bobbi McCaughey’s story was quickly picked up by international media as everyone wanted to know the unique challenges and experiences that sextuplets would bring to a ‘normal’ American household. This slideshow follows this unique story from the time of birth, until adulthood.

The first born – happy couple (Kenni and Bobbi McCaughey)

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Kenni and Bobbi McCaughey had their first born daughter, Mikalya, born in 1996. The birth was a miracle in itself since Bobbi suffered from pituitary gland issues which made it almost impossible to successfully conceive. Looking to expand their family, they underwent fertility treatments to facilitate the birth of another child.

Surprising News

Before their first ultrasound, the McCaugheys were excited to learn that the fertility treatments had worked and that their family would soon be expanding. But by just how much was something they didn’t realize until this moment. The sound of so many heartbeats in the silence of the hospital room—“it was a lot to take in,” remembered the McCaugheys. Before they knew it their whole life would be changed forever.

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The Pregnancy

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To their surprise, they learnt that not only were the fertility treatments successful, Bobbi now had seven growing embryos in her womb. Despite the fact that no other set of sextuplets had ever been successfully delivered, they refused to undergo selective termination and decided to see the pregnancy to full term. With the story being picked up by multiple news outlets, this led to some criticism of ‘selfishness’ on their part by putting all embryos in danger.

The Birth

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On the 19th of November, the McCaughey’s doctor decided to deliver the children via cesarean section – six months early – to optimize their chances of survival. All seven children were successfully delivered, albeit underweight at the time. The couple now had seven new additions to their family, four boys (Kenny Robert, Nathan Roy, Brandon James, and Joel Stephen) and three girls (Alexis may, Natalie Sue, and Kelsey Ann)

It Takes a Village

As media attention increased around the miraculous birth of the first surviving septuplets in history—seven babies at the same time—even the hospital staff enjoyed a moment of fame. Before a bank of reporters and microphones, they gave a collective cheer to celebrate. Someone reportedly quipped that, while “it takes a village to raise a child,” ushering septuplets into the world takes a small city!

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The Septuplets

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With a media circus surrounding them, Bobbi and Kenni finally took their new children home and started planning on how to raise their unique family.

5. Media Coverage

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The media couldn’t get enough of the McCaughey sextuplets. Their home was constantly surrounded by local, national and international media outlets seeking to get a glimpse of the family. They even made the cover of Time magazine and Newsweek.

Balloons and Bodyguards

Though Bobbi and Kenni report that they gave relatively few interviews, they also remember that it was not uncommon for paparazzi and other visitors to slip into their backyard, hoping to get a glimpse of the septuplets. So great was the media attention that the local police, in order to ensure the family’s peace and quiet, stood guard outside the McCaughey home. With balloons.

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6. Celebrity Status

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Their new found celebrity also got them an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show on the sextuplets’ first birthday. The parents got a call from President Clinton, and later on, a visit from President Bush.

Mommy time

With eight children to attend to, the McCaughey parents were more than outnumbered! In her weekly journal, Mom Bobbi described trying moments when it seemed like there was “always at least one child crying.” She recalled feeling both “terror and joy,” but never regretted the decision to keep all seven babies rather than choosing “selective reduction.” “They’re my children, and I just wanted them,” she told People magazine.

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7. The Kindness of Strangers (and friends)

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While everybody was mesmerized by their story, they also recognized the financial challenges of raising eight young children. The McCaughey’s were showered with gifts which ranged from a 5,000 sq ft home, a lifetime supply of diapers and a new family van.

The Family Car

It was easy to spot the McCaughey family van because it came adorned with a bow and detailed with the names of each child and their parents. But did it come with carseats? The McCaugheys realized it was time to buckle up for a lifetime of adventures. Traveling with eight children was just one of the many new frontiers they would face as a family.

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Unique Challenges

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These acts of charity were well timed as the sextuplets tore through more than 50 diapers and a similar amount of milk bottles daily. The family had to shop in bulk for food, clothing, and toys to minimize costs. Simple tasks such as taking their children for a stroll required the use of customized, heavy-duty strollers.

Fascinated by the everyday

Media attention tended to focus on how the family coped with everyday tasks, like feeding eight toddlers. Challenging (and messy!) as they might have been, these moments were part of ordinary life for the McCaughey family, who met each one with characteristic good humor. Their upbeat attitude became an inspiration for parents everywhere. After all, if they could manage mealtime with eight, surely the rest of the world could make family dinners work, too….

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9. Joint Birthdays

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With seven children sharing a birthday, joint birthdays were a nightmare to organize. Luckily, the family had a good home dynamic which made it work.

Bedtime

For any parent, bedtime is not an easy hour, but for the McCaughey’s it was a nightly challenge, despite this idyllic feature photo from Better Homes and Gardens. Though they shared rooms by necessity, the siblings got along well. Looking back, they remember that “even from a very young age we all had different interests.” Nevertheless, they all wanted the top bunk.

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How’s That for a Lullabye?

What’s bedtime without some good night songs? Various artists, including Geoff More, Cindy Morgan, Ginny Owens, Chris Rice, and Kathie Lee Gifford came together to compose an album of soothing lullabye music in honor of the McCaughey septuplets. Even parents Bobbi and Kenni contributed a duet, “Tis So Sweet.” The song expressed their gratitude for the amazing gift of septuplets. And perhaps also for the peace and quiet as the last one dropped off to sleep….

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10. Hanging out

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Despite the unusual nature of the family, the kids still had a relatively normal upbringing. They had a large yard to play in, and they maintained a very healthy and active lifestyle.

A symbol of hope?

Like his predecessor, President Bush also found an inspiring American symbol in the McCaughey septuplets. After September 11th, the country needed a wholesome image to restore faith in the land of liberty and opportunity. Against all odds, these seven children had survived and grown into a beautiful, promising blond brood. Now, if only the leader of the free world could get them all to look at the camera!

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Not Twins…Septuplets!

Though they were all born within six minutes of each other (that’s right—six, not seven!), the septuplets were not identical, a fact they have had to explain repeatedly. Of course, this didn’t stop their parents from dressing them in the same clothes. “We didn’t really have a choice” recalled the McCaughey’s. Was it difficult for their older sister to be the odd one out? “Not at all,” says Mikayla.

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Fit that on the Fridge!

Despite their extraordinary number, the McCaughey family celebrated the ordinary accomplishments of each child—their first drawings and writings. The septuplets would go on to become good students who enjoyed school. And the good news for the young siblings was there was always an extensive audience at home for their latest works. The only challenge was finding space on the family refrigerator for all of them!

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Opening Presents

Buying, wrapping, and opening presents with eight children? Needless to say, moments like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and of course The Birthday were “big” in the McCaughey household. But how to keep track of which box belongs to whom? That didn’t seem to matter in the heat of the moment. Used to opening presents together, the septuplets continue to celebrate their miraculous birthday as a family.

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Mealtime at the McCaughey’s

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Organizing meals for a family of ten (the sextuplets, their elder sister, and the parents) was another challenge. Meals had to be made ‘buffet style’ where every person serves themselves. This was the norm for all three daily meals. The family also maintained a vegetable garden to reduce the costs of feeding their kids healthy meals on a daily basis.

Further Challenges

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Two of the sextuplets, Nathan and Alexis were diagnosed with cerebral palsy early in their childhood. Luckily, this did not come with any cognitive issues (and Alexis went on to graduate as one of the top students in her high school class). While Nathan later learnt how to walk on his own, Alexis required mobility assistance.

Seven from Heaven

Challenging as it was to raise eight children, the McCaugheys were unflagging in their belief that the birth of the world’s first septuplets was a miraculous gift. With help from Greg and Deborah Lewis, they chronicled their lives, and the importance of their faith, in the book Seven from Heaven, which went on to become a book club bestseller.

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High School – The Teenage Years

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In 2012, the sextuplets joined Carlisle High school in Iowa. They were all notably very active in the various clubs and activities that the high school offered. While all of them joined the school marching band, each of them had their own set of interests that they explored. Some of the activities that the sextuplets enjoyed include soccer, cross country, the cheer squad and the debate team. They also performed very decently academically.

Financial Independence

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One of the challenges of having eight teenagers was that the family was not in a financial position to meet all their individual needs during their teenage years. This required the McCaughey children to become responsible for their financial independence. To buy electronics, comics, and other items that all teenagers take for granted, they had to get jobs within the community. This is something that they undertook with gusto and enthusiasm.

Graduation

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In 2016, the graduating class of Carlisle High School included seven siblings. This was a huge achievement for the McCaugheys and was a testament to the exceptional upbringing that Bobbi and Kenni had given their kids. While all the sextuplets achieved decent grades, Alexis stood out by graduating with honors as one of the top students in her year. This was a bittersweet moment, as it marked the beginning of adulthood where the sextuplets would each find their way independently in the world.

Adulthood

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After high school, each of the sextuplets had to chart their own career path, beginning with college. The Hannibal-LaGrange University in Missouri offered all of them a fully funded scholarship to join the school. Natalia, Nathan, Kelsey, and Joel accepted the generous offer and joined the University.

Kenny and Alexis chose to remain in Iowa and join the nearby Des Moines Area Community College while Brandon chose to fulfill his lifelong dream by enlisting to join the military. With adulthood, the sextuplets have chosen to keep their personal lives much more private.

University Life

The septuplets described college life as “culture shock” despite the fact that five of them chose to attend the same university together. What did each major in? Kelsey chose public relations, Alexis gravitated to early childhood education, Natalie selected exercise science, and Joel and Nathan decided on computer information systems. It seems like no coincidence that all of these majors are arguably areas related to the singular nature of their upbringing.

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Turning 21

Despite their desire for privacy as they go on with their separate lives, the family made headlines again recently as the septuplets turned 21 on the day before Thanksgiving. As they had since day one, the siblings gathered at the family home to give thanks together and share the festivities. No more fighting over cake…or even the champagne. “We’re not only siblings, we’re best friends,” one told a TODAY reporter.

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The Next Generation

And there is more to celebrate: older sister Mikayla gave birth to her first child, Becham, making the McCaugheys grandparents for the first time. Bobbi notes that “the love for them is same but the responsibility is so different.” As grandparents, caring for just one who goes home at the end of the day is strikingly different. And does Mikayla have plans to have more? If so, she’s not saying….

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The Real McCaugheys

As the public checks in again with the septuplets at this milestone, parents Bobbi and Kenni have downsized to a three-bedroom, turning over the family home to a ministry for young mothers. Other siblings are engaged and may soon follow Mikayla in starting families of their own. 21 years later, the McCaughey family remains an inspiring testament to the power and possibility of the American family.

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Other Septuplets?

Since the birth of the McCaughey septuplets—the first surviving septuplets—in 1997, five other sets of seven babies have been born. In 2010, the McGhee gamily welcomed septuplets and posted this photo that, like many of the McCaugheys family poses, went viral. Why the fascination with septuplets and with families like the McGhees and the McCaugheys? Is it modern science? Safety in numbers? Or is it perhaps the promise of a family “built on love.”

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Airline Acts of Kindness

Sarrah M

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Flying is More Stressful Than Ever

Flying has always been stressful. You need to have everything with you when you check in, and your luggage must meet airline standards. Airlines encourage passengers to arrive at the airport hours ahead of time so they can go through security and take care of any last-minute problems, which then means waiting for hours until the actual departure. The plane cabin feels confining, even to some passengers with more room, because you can’t leave once the trip starts. And you are surrounded by people experiencing the same feelings of stress.

In the past few years, stressed out passengers have taken out their frustrations on the crew and other passengers. There have been arguments, assaults, and general refusals to follow airline rules. That is why it is such great news to hear of times when an airline has gone above and beyond to simply spread kindness, proving that we can get through this and return to days of greater civility and enjoyment when flying.

A Lost Phone

If you’re like most people, you have almost everything you need on your phone. You use it to communicate with your friends and family, to stay in touch at work, to buy food, to keep up on the news, to keep track of the time, and an endless variety of other tasks. Losing your phone for any extended period of time will cause anything from a minor inconvenience to a disaster. Imagine getting ready to start a flight to another city and realizing that you don’t have your phone.

A passenger traveling from Long Beach, California lost their cell phone. The traveler was about to put hundreds of miles between himself and the phone that had all that important information. When the airline workers found the phone, the plane had already been pushed back from the gate and was about to leave. The plane was unable to open back up, even knowing that the passenger needed something important.

In a great act of kindness, the Southwest people worked together to make it happen anyway. The Captain had the idea, but it wouldn’t have worked without a lot of help. The baggage handlers who were allowed in the area brought the phone within reach of the the Captain so that he could grab it through his cockpit window.

Taking Care of a Dinosaur

Another passenger had a great experience when bringing an important model dinosaur while traveling on Southwest. Concerned about how well the model would be taken care of, the young passenger spoke with the airline while checking in. Kind workers assured him that the model would be handled carefully, even loading it separately and taking pictures of the journey. This simple act of kindness was much appreciated by a worried youngster.

Proposal

Southwest really appreciates its customers and proves it with these kinds of actions. When a pilot decided to propose during a flight, he gave more proof that Southwest treats their passengers like family. Pilot Brad Ruff made a traditional proposal to his girlfriend during a flight, bended knee and all, in front of all the passengers. It was their second anniversary of dating, and he felt like it was the perfect time. There was applause and whistles as the couple made their happy moment a special moment for everyone flying that day.

Flying can be hard and stressful, but it makes it easier when remembering that everyone you are dealing with is another person trying to achieve a goal. These Southwest employees made flying more special and less stressful for everyone.

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Pneumonia-Fighting Tiny Robots

Liz L

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Be careful mixing up the movies of the future and medical reality; they might start to blend. That is the case at least with fictional nanobots and the actual work going on using tiny robots to help attack pneumonia bacteria.

Most people, thanks to Hollywood, think of robots as mechanical constructs, with wires, joints, metal parts and glowing eyeballs. In reality, robots can be made from proteins, biological material, and organic matter. The key factor is that they can be assembled in mass and controlled to do specific actions. This was the case recently with swimming robots that were sent into a lab mouse to directly attack pneumonia. The goal, of course, is to take an overt approach to fending off a pneumonia infection versus using the indirect approach of bolstering the body and its own immune system.

The exact assembly of the micro-robots is a construct of an algae cell that is then coated with antibiotics. The algae cells have the ability to move through the lungs with ease, and then they are programmed to find and target pneumonia microbes. It’s a bit like sending in a guided missile at the cellular level. Everything else is left alone as only the target is recognized.

The experiment has shown very positive results. Those mice with the algae treatment cleared up their pneumonia within a few days. The mice that had no treatment died very soon after infection. So, will we be seeing algae robots in people at the local hospital? Not so soon. The experiment was a prototype test, a proof of concept that the idea could actually work. Now that the algae robots have a proven effect, there comes a long road of lots of additional tests to make sure the results can be consistently performed, as well as whether there are any harmful side effects. In short, a lot more mice are going to have to be used.

The assembly of the algae cells is a bit complicated and involves a lot of bio-genetic work. Each algae “robot” is covered with spheres that do the actual medical work. These are then covered with neutrophils, effectively white blood cells. The combination guides the algae cell to its target and then the antibiotics are released in close proximity, basically killing the pneumonia microbe and everything around it, a microscopic suicide drone. The mix also helps reduce local inflammation, which then clears up the area in the lung and the patient can effectively breathe better.

Other methods were tried before using an inhalation approach. A bloodstream entry of the algae cells was tried, but the circulatory approach diluted things so much, the dosage had to be thousands of times higher to have an effect. Instead, direct inhalation went straight to the source of the problem.

The approach of medical micro-robots is a big one, and it represents the frontier of bio-technology. Pneumonia kills thousands every year, especially seniors with compromised immune systems. Pneumonia can happen through social contact as well as when people are in the hospital and put on ventilators for other reasons, such as COVID, for example. Many times, patients in these situations end up staying in the hospital longer and have a higher likelihood of mortality once an infection sets in.

Again, the concept is a long way off from any practical use. Human immune systems are very different from mice, and what works on rodents may automatically trigger bad responses or perform little in humans. No surprise, lots of testing is in store, but the early results clearly advocate for more work versus killing the project altogether.

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Tiny Turtles Prove the Odds Wrong

Danielle S

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What chance does a creature have when it is one of the world’s smallest in the big ocean and the most endangered? As far as nature is concerned, it never seems to listen to the odds. That’s the case with a sea turtle species that has made itself at home near a Louisiana barrier island.

The Kemp’s ridley sea turtle has managed to survive and has been observed again after being missing in biological terms for almost three-quarters of a century. Grinding out a delicate survival on the Chandeleur Islands, which have no human presence, the turtles have been eaking out an existence despite oil spills, hurricanes and everything else that can go wrong. While other wildlife was decimated by the BP spill a decade ago, the turtles somehow avoided certain elimination and instead are still alive, laying eggs, and hatching. However, much of that was missed because nobody was paying attention to the barrier islands.

However, on an off chance, scientists who were visiting the area realized what they had been watching was two small hatchlings struggle to get to the water after birth. And since that day, a total of at least 53 individual hatchlings have been tracked on the islands. Additional evidence comes in the form of the movement tracks made by the mother turtles to their egg nests and then back to sea. Add in the dozens of smaller tracks of hatchlings heading back out and some being observed getting into the water, and the proof is conclusive. The turtles survived and are growing in number.

The discovery is easily argued as one of the rarest moments that most researchers wish they could happen on. Many spend decades studying the sealife and wildlife of the Gulf and never get a chance to re-discover a known extinct species. Not only seeing them alive, but seeing the very young versions make it to water and swim is an extremely rare instance of biology most only read about or watching in films.

Now that the turtles are confirmed alive and functioning on and around the Chandeleur Islands, increased government presence is being applied to keep the area protected. The islands themselves, however, are numbered in days. They’ve lost their soil, and what’s left is being washed away by the ocean. Eventually, the island will be completely submerged at their current erosion rate. What happens to the turtles at that point is anyone’s guess, but they will likely end up opting for another similar island instead, if they can reach it.

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MacKenzie Scott Tidal Waves Charity with $55 million in Donated Property

Danielle S

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Jeff Bezos will go down in history as probably one of the richest success stories of e-commerce and Internet business, at least in the beginning of the 21st century. However, it will be his ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, who will hold the title as probably the biggest philanthropic movement, using her share of their marriage’s divorce to return social good to hundreds of charities and non-profit programs with the money that her husband originally generated.

With Bezos’ net worth at the time in the billions, there was never a question that MacKenzie was going to separate with a sizable portion of it. What really was on everyone’s minds was how much that would be and then what she would do with it. As it turns out, and she did make it extremely clear when the divorce was finalized, MacKenzie Scott was going to use her husband’s money for social good. More than likely, part of that commitment was intended to spite Bezos’ drive for capital collection as a company owner in what he built with Amazon.

The latest move MacKenzie has taken to keep with her commitment has been the recent donation of not one but two sizable Beverly Hills properties, collectively worth over $55 million on today’s market. By most expert estimates, MacKenzie won’t be hurting; she’s still in control of a net worth of $37 billion. Having cashed out $8.5 billion of stock ownership in Amazon, MacKenzie still retains control of 4 percent of the company directly, and that’s after giving away $12 billion to causes and charities she feels merit the help.

Even better for her, MacKenzie has fully moved on from her divorce, re-marrying again to a high school chemistry teacher. Definitely, her second marriage will be a notable change of pace from the past.

As for the two homes, they are to be transferred by title, without any holdbacks or easements, to the California Community Foundation. If nothing else, the property donation alone will be a massive tax deduction for MacKenzie as well, practically wiping out any kind of income tax obligation she might have for 2022.

While Jeff Bezos might be grinding his teeth as to what he could have done with the $55 million and the other $12 billion she’s already given away in terms of Amazon or similar ventures, MacKenzie has made it clear she is out to offset his capitalism with social good. And, given the performance so far, MacKenzie is scoring five stars across the board in her strategy and plan.

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Doctor Runs To Hospital To Perform Surgery After Being Stuck In Dead Stop Traffic

Jolie

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Doctors are trained to deal with the fact that the decisions and procedures they handle can, at times, literally be the difference between someone living longer or passing away. It is one of the primary reasons doctors swear to the Hippocratic Oath, to do all they can to help preserve life and never do anything to the opposite of that. So, for Dr. Govind Nandakumar, when he needed to make it timely to a surgery he was scheduled to handle, there wasn’t going to be any ambiguity about it. He was going to be there, period.

Unfortunately, Bengaluru traffic isn’t conducive to timeliness. In fact, most times the congested city’s main traffic routes are a plugged-up mess of scooters, cars, busses, trucks and cabs all trying to get somewhere but going nowhere fast. When Nandakumar found himself in the middle of one such traffic jam, the decision was simple: get out and run. He wasn’t worried about his car; Nandakumar had a dedicated driver with the vehicle, so it would be taken care of. The bigger issue that mattered was getting across the 3 kilometers between where he was at and where the surgery was going to be shortly.

Trying to get to Manipal Hospital, Nandakumar knew no amount of waiting was going to free up the car. What would normally take 10 minutes to travel by car was clearly going to be more than four times that, according to his phone and Google map. So, on the street Nandakumar went, and he began running. Fortunately, he was already in good shape; Nandakumar regularly exercised, so the 3 km distance wasn’t going to be a hassle or extreme challenge for him. He was just going to be a bit sweaty getting into the medical offices.

The decision was the right one. Not only did Nandakumar make it in time for the surgery, he successfully took care of an emergency gastric surgery that had the potential to be terminal for the patient had it not been addressed immediately. In the big scheme of things, Manipal Hospital had enough staff who could have stepped in and pinch-hit for Nandakumar had he been late. However, the doctor’s dedication to his patients was paramount. At other times, the surgery could be at far smaller hospitals, and in those situations Nandakumar would be the only doctor available.

Nandakumar knows, despite his quick action in the latest scenario, the story doesn’t always work out so well. Patients are oftentimes trapped in ambulances stuck in traffic, close enough to know they are near, but the distance might as well be across the Grand Canyon for the patient sitting in the vehicle. In those instances, the doctor knows some cases have not ended so well; the traffic remains the curse of the modern world as a result.

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