Friday, August 22, 2014
The Simian Crease Vs. The Hand of Power
Remember how I got diagnosed with Down's Syndrome because of my simian crease? This picture of my hands shows this crease.
If you look at the top crease, on my left hand it curves up before it hits my index finger. That's a normal crease. On the right hand, it goes straight across.
It's called the simian crease because that's the way monkeys' hands crease (I know, very flattering!). People with Down's really do have this crease on both hands, so it is sometimes used as an early possible identifier.
When I was working at JHU, everyone in the lab spent long hours running experiments. It was a favorite past time to chat with your lab mates while you pipetted hundreds (or thousands) of tiny wells, hoping that one would be the clone/antibody/T cell/tumor that would make your experiment a success. These meandering conversations with lab mates from all over the world were one of my favorite parts of the job!
One day, I was pipetting away, chatting with my friend Leon, whose family was from China, and I told him the story about the Down's diagnosis and the simian crease.
Leon: WHAT?! Let me see your hand!!
Me: Ummmm.... Okay (I take off my gloves and show him).
Leon (shaking his head in shocked disbelief): Don't you dare EVER call that a "simian crease!" That's the Hand of Power!
Me (totally sure he was joking): The Hand of Power?!
Leon: Yes! The Dowager Empress had that exact pattern on her hand, and it was called the Hand of Power. It was believed that if she slapped a man with that hand, he would fall dead at her feet. She was the most powerful woman in Chinese history... "Simian crease!" I can NOT believe you were calling it that!
This didn't occur to me until now: Leon was a double doctor (an MD, PhD), so really he didn't just give me a different perspective, technically, he gave me a different diagnosis.
Which makes the moral of the story: always get a second opinion!
Or, possibly: don't make me slap you!