Note: It’s taken me a while to post this because it was a very overwhelming experience but I do feel it is worth sharing.
The trademark medical school class will be over in less than a week. I’ve learned every piece of wiring, tubing, and structures of the human body, what else is there to learn? But really all I’ve learned is how the body is supposed to be, how it is supposed to look. In the elderly cadavers that predominated in our anatomy lab, we only learned of a handful of ailments: cancer, obesity, heart disease. Next semester we will continue to study the proper functioning of the human body with still some minor correlations to medicine. But second year we’ll learn the bulk of what goes wrong and a glimpse of how to treat it.
It is a bitter sweet finale, fascinating to reflect on all I’ve learned, but saddening to know all the complex dissections will be gone soon. Every Tuesday we went in there and made some further progress toward understanding the gross anatomy of the human body and soon it’ll be over.
It’s strange how something so taboo can become so natural. I never became accustomed to the pungent odor of formaldehyde, but the idea of dissecting became less criminal and more inquisitive. I remember on the first day being so surprised at the deliberate and uninhibited dissecting of the professors. I almost wanted to tell them to slow down, to appreciate what they were doing. I didn’t believe that in just a couple months I would be doing the same.
Every lab at some point I would look down and casually remind my lab partners and myself, “This is a human body.” It wasn’t to command some sort of respect for our cadaver. I imagined she earned that in her life. It was rather an overwhelming feeling of privilege to be able to do what we were doing. And I wanted to remember that. Something about saying it out loud made it true even when we didn’t want it to be. The fact is, we grew curious about our cadaver as we learned more about her. When we did the hand dissections we saw little scars, sun spots, and wear. When we dissected her abdomen we found severe atherosclerosis. And when we made it to the uterus dissection, we saw evidence of childbearing. I wondered how many kids, who they were, where they lived. Our cadaver was somebody’s mother and that really hit home.
This truly was one of the most monumental experiences of my life. To know what is inside us, what keeps us going, gave me an incredibly deep connected feeling with the human body. I’m privileged to have experienced this and will carry the lessons I learned from this class in medicine and life till someday hopefully my own body can be of use to the advancement of someone’s knowledge or health.
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