Week 1: The Cadaver

          I rolled out of bed at 5:00 a.m. Thursday morning, donned my scrubs, and fled to school, eager to meet my first patient whose appointment was scheduled for 7:00 a.m. At 6:50 a.m., I and 53 of my other classmates opened the doors to the cadaver lab. At least 40 metal tables filled the room, all neatly arranged and equally spaced. Atop the tables rested long, white bags, zipped to conceal the contents within. Divided into six groups of 8-10 students, we were all assigned one of six tables to stand beside. I stood in place, listening carefully to the instructions being given, my eyes, all the time, fixed on the bag in front of me. After about twenty minutes of patiently waiting, we were instructed to unzip the bag, and it was then when we all met our first patients.

          I have dissected many animals—insects, sharks, lizards, frogs, cats, pigs (to name a few)…but never a human. The cadaver that rested before me once had a life, a family, and so I was definitely hesitant, at first, to begin examining its body. But, once the bag was removed, I inspected the cadaver, an older-aged female, likely in her mid-70s (with a fresh manicure, might I add). We were then instructed to perform a head to toe examination of her. Every cadaver used in the lab passed of natural causes, and so by the completion of the dissection, 14 weeks from now, it is our job as a group to present three most likely causes of our cadaver’s death. I was amazed by how much information we were able to gather by simply inspecting her outer body. My group established a few hypotheses on the likely cause of death, but confirmation will come in the upcoming weeks (hopefully!).

          After about an hour of examining our patients, the professors required that each group name their patient, at which time we chose the name Summer. At last, the cadaver was no longer an ‘it,’ no longer just an object to prod at and dissect, but rather an individual, with a new identity, who would begin to serve such an important educational purpose. I have only been provided this once in a lifetime experience because of Summer’s courageousness and willingness to donate her body to science, and so I see it fitting to dedicate all of the knowledge I acquire throughout the course of this dissection to her.

Question of the week: Where are the smallest bones of the human body located?

Last week’s answer: The heaviest organ of the human body, by weight, is the skin, also called the integument.

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