Though it's not yet 9 a.m., I can barely keep up with the very fit Dr. Scher as he dashes up three flights of stairs (hospital elevators are notoriously slow, he explains) to visit with patients recovering in the maternity ward. To keep up this pace, he works out five days a week and watches what he eats -- that is, when he has time to eat, which during a typical day at the hospital may be never. "I order a salad for lunch and at 4 o'clock it's still sitting there," he says, pointing to a table in the residents' lounge as we hustle by.
In quick succession, Dr. Scher visits four new moms. With his South African accent, he's not only a medical authority, he's a class-A charmer. (Think a shorter Cary Grant with a wall full of medical degrees.) After gushing over the women's newborns, he asks how they're feeling. One second-time mom, in a room stuffed with "It's a boy!" bouquets, has severe pain under her right breast. "I'm worried it's my gall bladder," she says.
"Sometimes when you're pushing the baby out, you strain your intercostal muscles," Dr. Scher explains, pointing out the line of muscles located at the base of her rib cage. These muscles can become tender during a woman's last trimester, when they're squeezed by her expanding uterus, and again when she crunches up her body during delivery. Examining her, he asks, "Is the pain getting better? You're not coughing up blood or anything like that?" She says the pain has been lessening and there's no blood. "Then forget about it; just take the painkiller," Dr. Scher says, assuring her that the pain will abate as her body heals. Her baby cries, loudly. "What a beautiful boy!" Dr. Scher exclaims. "Whenever you get the pain, think of him!" He hugs her and we head off to the next room.
His rounds completed, Dr. Scher heads downstairs to check on his three -- excuse the term -- patients who are in labor. In addition to Linda, there are two first-time moms: Janet*, a 30-year-old who went into labor naturally, and Marcia, 42, who had been induced that morning.
He leaves each woman comforted by his sure knowledge, genuine warmth, and a piece of advice: to spend at least 20 minutes each day lying on her stomach or side. The idea behind this is simple: When a woman sits up in bed cradling her newborn, gravity pulls the extra fluid she's retained from the pregnancy and intravenous line, if she had one, to the lowest point in her body -- the vaginal and rectal area. When she turns over, the fluid that's accumulated will "drip, drip, drip" away, says Dr. Scher, to be absorbed back into the circulatory system and eventually excreted, helping the swelling go down.