Friday, August 30, 2013

Totally Texas -- Every hand has a story to tell

Adrian E. Flatt, M.D. Hand Collection

Truett Hospital, Baylor University Medical Center

3500 Gaston, Dallas


I dropped by surgeon Adrian Flatt’s collection of famous hands recently to see what was new. It’s been several years since I located the little museum inside the front door of Truett Hospital, part of the Baylor University Medical Center in East Dallas. Then I happened to catch sight of the bronze casts while visiting a friend. Then my daughter wanted to see the collection a couple of years ago to show her pre-school aged sons the bronze casts of the hands of Andre Roussimoff, aka Andre the Giant, their movie idol from The Princess Bride, as the giant Fezzik.

Every time I stop by, there are more casts of famous people’s hands, courtesy of hand surgeon Dr. Flatt. Besides Roussimoff’s hands are those of other childhood heroes such as Walt Disney and Theodore Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), whose works the boys can recite by heart. And a bunch of athletes, entertainers, scientists and politicians for grownups to gossip about. (Is there a family resemblance between the hands of father and son presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush? How about between actress Mary Martin and her son, the late Larry Hagman?)

This week, the boys were in school and I went to the museum by myself. With more time to browse, what caught my attention were the hands -- in one case, what little was left of them -- of three adventurers.

First, a warning. The bronzed stumps cast from Dallas physician S. Beck Weathers’ hands after his near-death experience on Mount Everest are disturbing even to an adult. But there they were, in a case with hand casts of fellow Texan Richard Bass, first man to climb the tallest mountains on each of the seven continents; and Robert Ballard, discoverer of the wreck of the Titanic, among others. People who’ve been the highest and some of the deepest places on Earth. And lived to tell about it.

Dr. Weathers was a member of a particularly ill-fated 1996 venture to Mount Everest, left for dead during a snowstorm that claimed the life of two guides and two other climbers in his expedition -- only a few of the fifteen people who died trying to reach the top of the world that year.

Another of the exhibits in the little museum discusses the method Dr. Flatt uses to obtain his bronze casts. And still another is a delightful display of cultural artifacts about hands -- some presented to Dr. Flatt by grateful patients. There is a video that looks interesting, but was not working on my visit Wednesday. When I inquired, I was promised a call from someone in the hospital’s marketing department. No matter, the hands speak for themselves.

The museum is free and open twenty-four hours a day, like the hospital, although late night visits will have to ask to have the door unlocked. There’s parking on several sides of the hospital, and DART’s Green Line train stops behind the medical center. For more about Dr. Flatt and his famous hands, see

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