Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Ugly: Cadavers Are Full of Sh*t

Literally. We found this out the hard way when our cadaver's colon was accidentally cut into. It's not that it was surprising - what else would be in there, right? But it's really an unpleasant smell, and definitely an unpleasant consistency. So unfortunately, my group did not get to do the last dissection; we just followed along with other groups. The professors thought that it would be better to keep the cadaver closed rather than continuing to move things around inside and let more of the colon contents ooze out. I would have to agree.

Other than that, I have exactly three complaints when it comes to dissecting:

#1. You get starving during dissections. Why is that a complaint? Because it creeps me out that after looking into an opened human body for two hours I need to go home and immediately eat a gigantic meal - especially when some professors make meat jokes constantly ("ahh, there is a nice brisket" or "look, you found flank steak - delicious with garlic"). It's weird. And while I can't really look at meat the same way anymore, it's unfortunately still very delicious.

#2. Dissecting is exhausting. Even having just one two-hour (sometimes shorter, sometimes longer) lab knocks you out for the rest of that day. You come home from lab, shower, eat your gigantic meal, and then usually pretend to do work until it's an acceptable time to go to bed. And by pretend to do work, I mean have your book open in front of you while you watch TV or play stupid games on the internet. Studying by osmosis works, right?

#3. Dissecting is uncomfortable every time I'm reminded (especially if it's unexpectedly) that I'm working with what was once a person with a life and a story. The body hair and fingernails agitated me the most. Everything else about the body just seems fake. A cadaver doesn't bleed, and embalmed skin doesn't really feel like a real person's skin, so it's easy to believe that it's not a real person. Or at least easy not to think about it. But when a loose hair gets stuck on your glove, or you accidentally brush against a sharp nail - there's no difference between a cadaver's or your lab partner's, and that is a very uncomfortable feeling that will definitely give you the chills. The hands in general were also very discomforting, for reasons that I'm not sure I know how to put into words.

For me, dissecting was such a weird mix of needing to objectify but wanting to personalize (anyone who knows me, or has at least read my post on assigning emotions to human organs, knows I like to make up stories about everything), and finding that balance could be tough. In the same vein (pun very much intended), I have mixed feelings about not getting to do the head and neck dissections. On one hand, I feel cheated that our med school class is the first year not to get to do it. But on the other hand, I wonder how well I would really be able to handle it.


  1. you're full of sh*t.

    JOKES! this is my favorite blog on the internet! go doctors!