Amy Reed, who exposed the dangers of a medical device blamed for hastening her own death, was eulogized Thursday as a devoted wife and mother, a gifted physician, and a metaphorical slayer of dragons.
Hundreds of people gathered at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Center City to mourn the 44-year-old mother of six, who died May 24 of a rare uterine cancer.
Reed and her husband, cardiac surgeon Hooman Noorchashm, fought to ban the tissue-slicing surgical tool, called a power morcellator, that was used during her hysterectomy, performed in Boston in 2013. It spread her then-undetected malignancy, worsening her prognosis. The Yardley couple’s crusade has drastically curtailed use of the device, which helped gynecologists perform hysterectomies using minimally-invasive methods.
Noorchashm began a poetic tribute to his wife Thursday in a barely audible voice, choking back tears, but built to a passionate crescendo as he talked about her struggles.
“Now, here, rests this saint on the altar — this Georgina — whose battle with earthly disease and establishment corruption brought her death — premature, unjust, and raw!” he said. “But is this really death? This Georgina of ours, can she really die? I say, No! She is alive and burns bright with the angels and saints who save us every day.”
Minutes later, the Rev. Daniel Ruff — the Philadelphia priest who baptized Noorchashm when he became a Roman Catholic after his marriage — explained the “Georgina” allusion for those who didn’t know: As Reed battled her aggressive cancer and became an “evangelist” warning about the hazards of morcellation, she came to identify with St. George, the dragon-slayer of legend.
“In a joking way, friends started calling her Georgina,” Ruff said.
He ended his sermon: “Georgina of Yardley, pray for us.”
Emily Gordon, a University of Pennsylvania anesthesiologist who trained alongside Reed at that medical center, recalled how they unwound after long days in the intensive care unit by discussing their cases, sitting on a cafeteria bench so decrepit that it was always available to them.
“If she were here … she would ask us, ‘What’s next?’ ” Gordon said. “As time goes on and our pain recedes, hopefully we can live with as much curiosity, tenacity, tenderness, and ferocious loyalty as our friend Amy.”
The nave of the cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, was filled by the mourners, including many schoolmates of the couple’s children, ages 4 to 15.
The two oldest children, Joseph and Nadia, read passages from the Bible during the Funeral Mass. Joseph’s reading from Revelation, about a dragon depicted as the devil, may be the source of the legend of St. George, Ruff said.
The funeral attendees included many professionals from Penn, where Dr. Reed and her husband earned their medical degrees and doctorates in immunology, and from Boston, where the couple were working when she underwent the hysterectomy at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her cancerous tumor was mistaken for benign fibroid because, as the couple belatedly learned, preoperative tests cannot reliably detect the malignancy. She was informed that a morcellator was used only after routine lab analysis of her uterine tissue revealed the cancer.
As a result of the couple’s efforts, most hospitals, insurers, and even the leading manufacturer have abandoned power morcellators. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now warns against morcellation in almost all cases. Hundreds of women or their families have come forward to say they were harmed by the device. Several women also wrote directly to Reed to say they refused power morcellation after reading about her, and turned out to have sarcomas that were removed intact.
JoAnn Trainer, Reed’s mother, said, “Amy pushed us to become our best selves. She led by example. … The love she extended to all of us has changed us forever.”
After the Mass, a funeral procession went to Newtown Cemetery, where Reed was buried. Her husband had petitioned unsuccessfully for permission to bury her at Washington Crossing National Cemetery.