June 14th, 2004 - Open Knowledge
Jun. 14th, 2004
Dr Robert White
[The Sunday Telegraph Magazine, 2000]
THE operation, when it finally succeeded, was choreographed and rehearsed in meticulous detail. It had been mapped out like an old fashioned dance pattern, where footprints and arrows instruct the unwieldy in the intricacies of the rhumba. Chalk marks on the floor fixed the positions of more than thirty highly drilled professionals: two surgical teams, a squad of anaesthesiologists, assorted nurses, phalanxes of technicians, a bevy of scientists equipped to analyse blood and urine samples on the spot. Mindful of a dozen or more failed attempts - due to loss of blood, surgical errors or simply the fragile condition of their subjects - the experts proceeded in their exacting task by a combination of vigilance and rote. It was a matter of 18 hours later that, exhausted, they could rest and once again wait to see if the patient would regain consciousness.
The patient did; and promptly tried to bite a finger off one of the assistants. The result was pandemonium. The patient's mood, as described by the presiding surgeon, was “dangerous, pugnacious, and very unhappy.” This is understandable, the patient being a rhesus monkey, never the sweetest-tempered creature at the best of times. And this was not - for the monkey, at least - the best of times. It had just woken up with its head firmly attached, at the neck, to another rhesus monkey's decapitated body.
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