Friday, December 9, 2011

Last anatomy lab

Parts of this post are hidden and contain graphic recollections of cadaver dissection. 12/2/11 was my last day of dissection. (I'll go into lab to study for the test a week from today, but I will never again take scalpel, probe, forceps, scissors, box saw, chisel, spoon, baster, or hand to a cadaver again.) We dissected the oral and nasal cavities by hemisecting the head. My partner actually broke a hand saw while dividing the bone. As we were washing our instruments and closing our tank, Semisonic's "Closing Time" came on (we almost always listen to music, courtesy of Pandora, during lab).
How wrong this has seemed! Only my facade has changed over the past five months. Fascinating? Yes. Disturbing? Yes. I am grateful to be through with it. Another thing I am grateful for: I was told it was inevitable to dream about one's cadaver, but this did not happen to me.
I dreamt I was a cadaver and I also dreamt of dead children coming to me and holding my hands, but I never dreamt about my cadavers.)

In the past five months, I have watched twenty persons' bodies be picked down to ghoulish parts. Much of what horrified me were cuts to bone, as we sawed off a leg to see a hemisected pelvis. But not everything awful was orthopedic: we cut little vertical slits below the lower eyelids, like the makeup on a mime, to see intraocular muscles.

I did not like opening ribcages like mailboxes, cutting out organs, peeling off skin like old linoleum. I did not like to hear people calling parts of bodies "junk" and "crap." I did not like some of the music they played in lab (I marched to the front of the room and skipped a track from Rocky Horror Picture Show once.) I hated the way people spoke about this body or that—"the old girl was well-fed," or "that's just sad" (male external genitalia dissection). I hated the sound of saws, the smell of open bone, the stench of preservatives, the stinging hands and eyes. I will try to forget holding skeletal hands and arms that bent back from rigor mortis; I will try to forget emptying the rectum; I will try to forget our penultimate cadaver molded and the bleach added to the smell.

And I will be all right. Oddly, I like to dissect: to cut is fun, to clean is satisfying. (To stitch is wonderful, but we didn't do that in class.) But I thank God it is finished.

Today (12/9/11) was our last exam in our anatomy class. I walked out of the lab at about 5:00pm in a mix of fatigue and shock, unable to feel the emotions I had built up for that moment. Again, although I might not feel much, I reiterate: Deo gratias!

Partes huius celatae sunt, quia recollectiones dissectionis cadaveris pavefactae continent. Ut articulus in toto videre, vise legem parentem. Ad fraterculos meos: non id legere...mox id vobis intimabo.


  1. Hooray! We just finished anatomy the first week of November. It's such a wonderful feeling. Hope your test went well! :)

  2. Me, too!! Have a holy Advent and a blessed Christmas, Katie.