Meeting the Descendants of “Joseph B.”
Pouring over the foreign body case studies in the National Library of Medicine, I came upon a case that was particularly moving and equally disturbing. It was the case of “Joseph B.,” a nine-month old child who had been “fed” numerous non-nutritive items by a babysitter, including safety pins that became lodged in the baby’s esophagus and that Jackson deftly removed. The case study had three photographs of Joseph attached to it: pictures of the boy at various stages in his life, sent to Chevalier Jackson by his family to show their gratitude for Jackson having saved their son’s life. Jackson left significant details out of his textbook renderings of this case, and I devote an entire chapter to it in Swallow. Recently, through a series of serendipitous connections, Joseph B.’s daughter contacted me. She had read an excerpt of Swallow in ProTo magazine, and was reminded of her father’s case. Our correspondence has been astonishing, and on September 10th, I will open the drawer in the foreign body cabinet with Joseph B’s things in it for some of his descendants to see. I also plan to compose a substantive meditation on my meeting the family, and on details in the case that have come to light since our meeting.