Saturday, 14 May 2016

Cadaver Diaries

             I'm no stranger to cadavers. I'm in a room full of cadavers at least once every week. This has gone on for almost two years now. I'm almost used to the pungent smell of formalin that makes the eyes of even the strongest of men(and women) water. I always wear my glasses as a shield to reduce the formalin-induced tears that must drop. It's the harshest of environments that does not give you room to even dry your tears. The dissection must go on.             

            Four months from now, I will be done with the pre-clinical class. (This is where as a Nigerian I have to insert 'by the grace of God'). To me, most importantly, it means that there will be no more 'cadaver rooms'. I am not a fan of Anatomy practicals but I must confess that as I get closer and closer to finishing one half of the six-year race, a certain form of nostalgia envelops me. 
            This brings to my mind the first time we all encountered the cadavers - the look of awe and astonishment that was written over everyone's face. There was a certain revered look as we uncovered the various cadavers. Some people wanted to take pictures of the stiff bodies laying on the dissecting table in the most helpless positions. Arguments ensued and it was unanimously agreed on that it was against all rules of ethics to do that. I agreed, never mind that I had never read any book on ethics. I guess that some things are just common sense. I remember that a few people still took some pictures regardless. They probably thought they were flouting the rules - a daredevil sort of rebellion. I want to ask any of them what they eventually did with the pictures. I won't anyway. I already know the answer. They couldn't have put it on social media and with the pressure from all around, surely they deleted any photos. Also, I'm not sure of the people who may have taken any pictures. 
             That first time, we had already heard of tales of people that threw up once they saw the seemingly myriad of dead bodies. Others couldn't eat well for a while and for those heavily vested in believing that evil spirits roamed the earth at night, they had bouts of sleepless nights. Those were only tales and none of that happened to the best of my knowledge (or maybe they did). 
            The dissection ensued, but not before we took forever to put on our gloves and some asked stupid questions like 'ew are we really going to touch that?' . Identifying the necessary items like the scalpel, dissecting blade and others took some time that initial day. It's a whole different story presently. Our gloves are put on as fast as the speed of light and we all know what each dissecting instrument is for, in addition to the hack saws and drills we may require. Procedures in the lab take place as clinically as possible and certainly no stupid questions are asked. Any possible answer to relevant questions one might need must be in the Cunningham's manual. 


            So far so good, my most memorable dissections are for the brain and anterior chest wall (ermm breast region). The brain struck a chord with me. I'm not sure what expressions to use to capture the different thought processes that occur when one sees an unsullied human brain for the first time. As many times as you may have looked intently at the brain in the atlas(es) and textbook(s), it still doesn't prepare you for the intricacy and the delicate arrangement of structures found once the skull is cracked open. It might sound weird to a non-medical student, but it is a truly beautiful sight. As a class collectively, we must have spent so long 'appreciating' (to use Dr. Mike's popular expression) the cranial structures.
          I've had my last dissection (again by God's grace) and I can say with absolute certainty that I will miss the jokes that accompanied every cut and incision we made on the cadavers. We called ourselves surgeons and at times teased another person by calling them a quack. We bristled with confidence and half-baked knowledge of procedures derived mainly from popular medical series like 'Grey's Anatomy', 'House' and 'Chicago Med'. 
         Nonetheless, as is the normal way of life, everyone is already looking forward to the remaining three more years, ceteris paribus, when we will be in the clinical class. I feel the same way as well. I can't wait for the next phase where I will have to face the 'P- dragons' - Pharmacology and Pathology. I'm almost ready for words like Ciprofloxacin, chloramphenicol and fluoroquinolones. I'm also almost ready for my barely decent writing to get worse. More importantly, I'm ensuring I savour these present twilight moments of the pre-clinical year while fixing my eyes ahead. 



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