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An OB-GYN Takes A New Patient: Kira The Gorilla


The mother-to-be was in distress. She'd been in labor for hours, and she was looking ill. And the zoo's team was nervous about doing a C-section on her. And so the call went out for Dr. Rebekah McCurdy, the OB-GYN - normally for humans - jumped into her car and made her way to the Philadelphia Zoo. The gorilla Kira needed her help.

Dr. McCurdy, welcome to the program.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: So had you ever operated on a gorilla before?

MCCURDY: Oh, no. All of my patients are human.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) Except for one now.

MCCURDY: Yes, except for one now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So when Kira was on the operating table and you were about to operate on her, were you nervous? I mean, what was it like looking at at a huge gorilla about to give birth?

MCCURDY: Well, it was definitely different. My human patients are not nearly so hairy...


MCCURDY: ...So I noticed that right away (laughter). But in many respects, it was quite similar. She was a mother about to have a baby who was fully dilated but, for some reason, didn't push her baby out. And that happens to me and my patients quite a bit. So in that sense, I wasn't really nervous. It was more that something needed to be done, and I was ready to do it.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is the baby's name?

MCCURDY: They haven't named the baby yet. What they did with this baby's stepsibling was they held a public vote to help choose the name. And I suspect they'll do the same again for this one.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Do you have any thoughts about becoming a vet?

MCCURDY: No. I think one of the things that I thought after this birth was how incredible it was to be a part of that but also, on a daily basis, you know, even as I'll be delivering babies tonight, what an incredible privilege it is to help bring life into the world in humans as well as animals. So I think I'll keep going with what I do. But I'll be available if anything is needed there at the zoo.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Have you seen Kira after she recovered?

MCCURDY: I have not gone to the zoo yet with my family. But the veterinarians have been messaging me photographs and info on how she's recovering. It seems that she's doing quite well.

MCCURDY: Do you have children?

MCCURDY: I do. I have three of my own.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what did they - what did you tell them about helping a baby gorilla into the world?

MCCURDY: Oh, they were so terribly excited. We were able to show them the pictures. And, you know, they love going to the zoo, and they know Mom helps deliver babies. So they were very excited to hear that the baby had arrived.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And so they have something, I think, pretty special to talk about in show-and-tell.

MCCURDY: Yes, I believe so.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. So that sounds pretty wild (laughter) - literally.


MCCURDY: It was a bunch of fun.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Did you feel like that, that it was really fun?

MCCURDY: Well, it was fun in the moment. And I think afterwards, I was somewhat shocked and surprised, you know, just reflecting on what had just happened. And I think that's when it really hit me. Then I was like, oh...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I just did that.

MCCURDY: ...Can't believe I just delivered a gorilla.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Dr. Rebekah McCurdy of Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia, thank you so much.

MCCURDY: Thank you so much for this incredible privilege.


LOUIS PRIMA: (Singing) Walking around. Oh, oobee-doo, oop-dee-wee (ph), I want to be like you. Hop-dee-doo-bee-do-bow (ph) - I want to walk like you... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.