Before we first went into anatomy, we were asked to describe our feelings for a word bubble. I chose “epinephrine”, probably because I’m a dork, but also because it was accurate — I wasn’t really just anxious/nervous/excited, I was a bit of both, and all I felt was my heart rate speeding up and slight sweating and just adrenaline. I wasn’t sure how to feel. In the past, I’ve shadowed many surgeries, and I was never nervous around operations on open bodies. Something about the fact that we’d be with dead bodies, however, made me feel… eerie? I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that I wasn’t alone in my feeling in the room.
As we changed into our scrubs, I felt the rush more. I frustratingly tried different combinations to get into our lab until I finally got in, and I was the first girl. The minute I saw the body bags, all I wanted to do was find my body. Immediately, I adjusted. I didn’t even notice a smell, although I’m sure there was one. When I found my body, the bag was partially cracked open, and it was all I could do to keep my hands away from the bag so I could open it all the way.
I wanted to wait until after our first true lab and dissection to see how I felt, and I suppose intuition always wins — I love it. Before the class, we watched a video about what it meant to donors, and many talked about how they wanted to be more beyond their deaths, how they wanted to keep teaching, etc. As desensitized as I am to the whole “OMG, there’s a dead body in front of me that I’m cutting into” feeling, I haven’t stopped forgetting what a gift it is for us to be able to have these cadavers. Even in my fury of excitement as we reflect muscles and palpate structures, I still think about how lucky I am that someone was so kind enough to donate her body to me to let me learn and further my education. I have never had any anatomy — I’m not even kidding. I never even had to memorize the bones or the muscles of the body when I was in elementary school. I’ve literally had no anatomy. So in addition to learning this whole new language of terminology, I’ve also had to learn about where things are, what they are, how they are, etc. I won’t lie, it’s been tough. I spend hours on the pre-lab readings hoping to identify as many things as I can on various forms of art/pictures. In the end, there’s nothing like learning from touching the muscle in my hand or feeling the bumps of the spinous processes. I’m so thankful to the donors in our program that they are able to help me learn anatomy.
One of the cooler things to me too is how everyone’s body is so different. My friend and I were discussing how something that you’d even think you’d take for granted, like the number of vertebra, can vary between human to human! What does that mean for evolution? Who knows. I think it’s fascinating that you can try to extract someone’s life and story from their body postmortem. My program doesn’t let us know about details of death (or life) until maybe later, so it’s truly all a mystery to me. But I know that even the basics we’ve seen already reveal much. For example, I now know that if I were a cadaver, I’d be a pretty boring dissection since I’m probably all bone and fat with very little muscle. That sucks. I really need to work out more. I may not have exciting skin lesions on me, but I have had enough sun exposure that I may have some macules worth checking out. Is my story cool? What would future students know about me? Here’s a girl who either goes outside a lot or is extremely sensitive to sunlight or doesn’t wear sunblock (middle is true). Here’s a girl who clearly avoids the gym (true). Here’s a girl who is really frail — why? What happened to her? (kidney failure) I just think that’s so great that you can guess at all these stories about someone.
I’ve so long wanted to donate my body to future patients that I never thought about another purpose for it. But as someone said in our video, what if your organs aren’t the best organs? (e.g. cancer/other diseases, you’re old, you’re missing some, etc.?) Is there any other way I could give back? Probably. I think it would be pretty great to donate my body to medical education if I couldn’t put it toward live patients. I’d hope that they would respect me as much as I respect my cadaver, but even so, I’d be dead, and the best I could hope for was that these future students would get something out of my body.