I didn’t realize how attached I was becoming to my cadaver until today. We had a long dissection of the upper limb scheduled for today, and I was eager to start cutting. I was the first person in the cadaver lab today. I opened up the bag to start getting our cadaver ready, and the first thing I saw was mold. Dozens…no, hundreds…of green and white spores. The rest of my group members and I just stared blankly at the sad state of our beloved cadaver. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I was really disgusted. Now, you might think that cadavers are fairly disgusting in and of themselves, which is a fair point, but there was something about seeing our cadaver covered in mold that was really disturbing.
I think in some ways, my group members and I are fairly protective of our cadaver. He is ours. Not somebody else’s, but ours. We are the ones who cut him open. We’re the ones who named him. Walter (our cadaver) donated his body to us. At first I think we felt somewhat responsible. As soon as news spread of our cadaver’s misfortune, other students started to come to get a glimpse. Usually students flock to our cadaver to admire his huge muscles or prominent veins, so it was kind of disappointing to have the cadaver that nobody wants. “What did you guys do!?” they would all say. Our professors assured us that this is “just something that happens sometimes,” and that it wasn’t our doing. Sure it happens…but not to OUR cadaver. Not to Walter.
After we realized that it wasn’t our fault and we didn’t have to feel guilty, I really just felt mad. I kept thinking, Walter didn’t donate his body to end up like this. It’s funny how it isn’t strange at all for us to skin him, cut out his muscles, or chop off his limbs, but somehow mold was just too much.
In the end, we were able to clean the old man off. He got a bleach and peroxide bath, a new bag, and a new set of cloths. In my opinion, he looks even better than before. We proceeded with our dissection, and by the end of the lab we had our usual crowd of admirers hoping to catch a glimpse of Walter’s ginormous cephalic vein and pectoralis muscles. It’s amazing how much we’ve bonded with Walter in such a short time. He is very much our cadaver, and we wouldn’t want it any other way…even if he is a little moldy.
Anatomy lab is something you will always remember but mostly for the emotional impact. Years later you will be confronted with a patient who has knee pain and you will wish you could just do that part of the lab over — but, you can’t. As you do each part of the lab it is a good idea to look at MRI and CT scans (don’t buy a book, look online) since what memory later forgets the imaging studies in real life will refresh.
I will continue to pray for you and I will throw a couple out there for Walter (:
We called our cadaver Jacques, because he bore an eery resemblance to Jacques Pepin. Now, whenever I make crepes, I think of anatomy lab. Which isn’t all that bad, really, because I met my husband there. We’ve been together (minus the formaldehyde smell) now for 6 years, now. And, although we might not remember everything from basic science med school, we remember every square inch of Jacques’ great gift to five young M1’s.
We didn’t have cadavers at our school, but we once did a lab with live lab pigs. Ours was Peggy Sue. She made it until the very end after everyone else’s pigs died. We quite liked her.