Sunday, September 9, 2007

Anatomy backblog #2

There's always something funny about struggling through a new situation. It's the teetering on the edge of panic that, if you have enough perspective, can be hilarious. This feeling is magnified if you're a first-year medical student trying to get a grasp on your first experience with a human body.

Don't get me wrong -- there are plenty of sobering, reflective moments too, when you're working with cadavers. But there's a certain humor in the oh-my-god-why-did-they-let-me-do-this-when-clearly-I'm-a-bumbling-idiot feeling of being handed the responsibility of cutting into the body of what was once a living, breathing, human being.

"Stay calm," I would try to tell myself, scissors in hand, not sure whether to laugh or burst into tears, but pretty sure neither of those would be useful, "she's already dead. There really isn't much you can do now to change that." It probably helped a little. But I still managed to cut off a few arteries that should have been kept on, create a knotted mess of the small intestines, and put the liver in backwards in front of my instructor. Not my crowning achievement.

Or, during a pre-exam study session, when we were all a little more on edge than usual. We were grouped around the thigh, trying to find the sartorius muscle, which, because the deep dissection was already done, had been cut and pulled back to who-knew-where. We picked up candidate muscles: "hm. No -- rectus femoris." One of my classmates picked up a testicle. Looked at it for a second, hopefully. A voice from behind her: "Uh, that is not sartorius."

We eventually found it, I think. And we did eventually get our bearings on the cadavers, at least enough to lessen the panic a little.

I don't mean to be callous, here. All of us were entirely grateful to be given the opportunity to explore on our own the complex, wondrous bodies we worked with in anatomy lab. Excitement, anxiety, fear, humor: all part of the experience.

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