Friday, June 1, 2012

A Real Human Being and a Real Hero

I will never forget when I snapped a person’s jaw in half with garden clippers. No, this is not an account of a murder of a review notes cadge. This is anatomy lab, a place full of magic, mystery and liquefied fat stains on your scrubs. It also has the added bonus of testing the validity of any violent fantasies one has ever had; no better way to find out what serial killing is like than to systematically disassemble a human in the name of science.

My cadaver was a wispy old woman, Ellie, whom I grew to love. One of the hardest moments of med school and maybe even my life was to put all of her pieces in a body bag and say goodbye. We gave her flowers. Truthfully there were days that I did not want to be there. I did not want to clean out her thoracic cavity full of congealed mucus (which has the consistency of spoiled cottage cheese). Nor did I want to tie off her intestines with plastic neon-pink ribbon, normally used to wrap presents, before removing her bowels and praying to every deity that I would not perforate them and spill out formaldehyde-preserved waste. But I never forgot her sacrifice to us. Thus I’ve decided that when I die I want to donate my body to a bunch of incompetent med students that will massacre it, although I plan to tattoo some helpful hints on myself to guide them.

Lab is also an especially terrible place for hangovers. After a post exam shindig people are seen darting out for oxygen breaks far more than usually. The occasional overachiever can be observed with an airplane style vomit baggie sticking out of his lab coat pocket. I’ve always felt especially badly for the groups that had the poorly preserved bodies, which were basically decomposing corpses they had the pleasure of digging through. Walk by that and keep your lunch. I dare you.

For the few moments I wanted to steal one of those vomit baggies, there were many more majestic ones. I held a human heart, many hearts actually, and removed the brain, which proved to be a difficult task – it’s really stuck in there. I saw the intricacy of human hand, a surprisingly simple system considering that we can write, paint, touch and profoundly manipulate our world because of our hands. I used my hands to delicately dissect the neck with miniscule scissors, working for hours to unveil the astounding complexity of the machinery that helps run our face and brain. The irony is that for all of impressive things our body is and can do, it is a very unassuming lump of beige meat. 

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