Anatomy is a privilege and a joy

I had a nightmare last night about anatomy, the very night before my first dissection. I was in anatomy lab and had my scalpel plunged into an unknown body. As I pulled out the scalpel, a piece of flesh came flying out and shot into my gaping mouth. Needless to say, this morning in lab I was very careful about keeping my mouth shut.

I admit that I felt nervous and light-headed before and during anatomy lab. There was really no amount of preparation or easing us in that took place. This morning we simply walked into the room with body bags all neatly placed and lined up on rows of metallic tables. The room was well-lit with windows. The smell of formaldehyde was not extremely putrid. And there was no ritual or bombastic “welcome to anatomy” introduction. It was all, in my mind, a bit underwhelming compared to what I expected.

I, along with my two other anatomy partners Zach and Katy (most groups had four people), unzipped the black body bag. The first thing I saw was the hand and suddenly it felt real. From the large, rough and hairy hands, we could tell that our body was a “he.” I’ve seen dead human bodies before, but never have I come so close to one, realizing that I will get to know this person I just met in a way that he himself could not have ever known.

My first cut was down the middle of his back. At first it was a tiny scrawl as I got used to holding a scalpel. Then I began applying more pressure until the blade sunk into the skin, through the fat, and into the rest of the body. A layer of bright yellow subcutaneous fat swallowed my scalpel and pretty soon I too was engrossed into this new realm of anatomy.

They say anatomy is a privilege. I say anatomy is both a privilege and a joy. It is a joy of learning in such an intimate manner. It is a joy of marveling at the intricacies and beauty of the human body. And it is a joy of truly appreciating the lives of those who donated their bodies for us to benefit from.

#3887. Whoever you are. Thank you.

Eric Lu is a medical student who blogs at Elusions.

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