Sunday, October 21, 2007

A LIFE IN MEDICINE - 3- Getting To Know You

There he was, lying on our table all wrapped up and ready to serve us. It would be weeks before we would see his face; we only exposed the area we were studying, and the head and neck was scheduled for late in the semester. Although we did not name him, to me he was Roadrunner, one of the few cadavers with almost no body fat for which the 4 of us were very grateful.

Before any work was started we were instructed to keep all tissue refuse from our dissection separate from the moist paper towels that were used to prevent the cadaver from drying out. After each session the scraps were collected and saved, and at the end of the session they were cremated and a formal service was held. Some of the cadavers were unclaimed bodies from the city morgue, but just as many were bodies that had been willed to the college.

In the course of the semester we studied the body one area at a time, starting with the upper extremities and ending with the head and neck. Fifty years later the details of the day to day events of that semester, with rew exceptions, are lost to me. One exception was our efforts to dissect the perineum (the anatomical name for the “crotch”).

In order to properly examine and study this area it is necessary for the body to be in the dorsal lithotomy position, which means lying on its back with knees bent and legs apart. If you recall I pointed out that our tables were flat and rigid, unlike most doctor’s examine tables. Thus we had to improvise in order to carry out the required dissection. Creativity ruled the lab, and for us that meant suspending the legs with the canvas strips from the overhead light, and stuffing paper towels under the buttocks to raise it off the table. This was a common method which usually worked. One of us had to be responsible for holding the cadaver steady. It was not unusual during this time to hear an occasional loud thud, followed by mumbled curses, as 4 students struggled to get their cadaver from the floor and back on the table. Not everyone was blessed with a roadrunner.

next...More year one

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