Week 3: Two Lungs And A Heart

          With a firm grip and a bit of pressure, I cut though the sides of Summer’s (the cadaver) first four, left ribs. I then passed what resembled gardening shears to the adjacent member of my lab group. The shears circled the table until all twenty-four of Summer’s ribs had been cut. As one opens the flaps a gift box on his or her birthday, eagerly anticipating the contents within, we all grabbed a portion of Summer’s rib cage and lifted it away from her body. And there they were—arguably the most vital organs that once sustained Summer’s life for at least seventy years—two lungs and a heart.

          Yesterday’s lab was definitely one of the more involved dissections, at least thus far into the semester. Sure, you can be as forceful and messy as is necessary to break through bones (like the ribs), but once you start exposing delicate vessels and nerves, one wrong slice with your scalpel and you’ve mistakenly cut through a very important structure. We’ve been assured many times that we get plenty of practice before we are thrust into our surgery clerkship, so that’s a good thing! Also, you can study as many diagrams and pictures in textbooks as you want, but arteries, veins, and nerves in a real human body are unfortunately not color-coded and as easily distinguishable. For a while, the thin, elastic tube you have wound around your scalpel doesn’t seem so significant until you take the time to identify it. This week we focused more on chest musculature and lung tissue. We were able to remove both lungs, which were incredibly spongy in texture. A few other lab groups opened their rib cages to find that their cadavers were presumably heavy smokers–these lungs, not so spongy (as you can imagine) and very darkly colored. Next week we open our next ‘package,’ that being the thin, protective membrane (pericardium) that encapsulates the heart.

          My other classes went well this week. Behavioral medicine focused on motivational interviewing of patients, specifically encouraging patients to lose weight or quit harmful addictions. We also learned how to effectively take our patients’ social and sexual histories (not an easy task until you know the best methods). HEENT focused on diagnosing and treating disorders of the mouth and throat, and Dermatology focused on diagnosing and treating eczema and other allergic reactions that manifest on the skin. Overall, this week was a very busy, but productive one. I definitely have a hefty amount of information to learn over the next three days ‘off.’

Question of the week: A cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of which body organ?

Last week’s answer: The systems of the body are: Integumentary (skin), Skeletal, Muscular, Nervous, Endocrine, Cardiovascular, Lymphatic/Immune, Respiratory, Digestive, Urinary, and Reproductive. 

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