Nervus Intermedius-How Gross Anatomy Almost Made A Cadaver Of Me-Part 2

Sarah was an artist and both fascinated and repulsed by all things morbid. Her studio was a creepy little place filled with nightmares and dark medieval forests, but her living spaces were always pretty and benign. So it was not that she didn’t like my bones, she just thought it very un-Feng Shui to have them lying all over my apartment. Yet still she was intrigued. “You have got to show me your…body, or whatever.” “Trust me,” I told her. “You’ll never get it out of your head.” “I don’t care,” she insisted. “I need to see it. I need to.”

We arrived at the dissection lab in the late evening. I slipped my I.D. through the card reader and the door plunked open. I watched Sarah as she took it all in from the threshold, standing for a long moment gazing wide-eyed into the vast space. Table after table of sheet-covered cadavers lay before us. Feet poked out from some, a shock of wiry hair from others, a thumb. Thirty yards away a group of four students hovered over their charge barely taking note of our entrance. As the odor of chemicals and death vented over us, Sarah’s hands shot to her face. “Ohmygod,” she managed to utter. “Yes, yes,” I returned with a smile. “Welcome.” I was beginning to enjoy myself.

We slowly walked in, Sarah now content to have just her left hand over her mouth to accent her look of abject horror. We passed to my cadaver, Marty the First. So named from a tattooed “M” on his upper left arm. ‘The First’ was added in a pique of self-deprecation and defeatism among my dissection group to suggest that upon our inevitable failure of the course, there would be for us all, a Marty the Second.

Marty was a medium-built man in his sixties, with several tattoos, who had, judging by even a cursory look at his liver and lungs, lived fast. We dissected out his implanted defibrillator and joked that, like us, it was apparently not up to the task. My group consisted of me; Ed — a big–spectacled, born again Christian, comic book geek who, though raised in Maryland conducted most of his business in an East London accent; a former frat boy, who’s rearward-situated baseball cap seemed to point back towards the kegger he looked to have grudgingly just left; and a woman I always referred to as the Delicate Flower, whose brusqueness and foul mouth could make a longshoreman blush and giggle. We were quite a team.

Sarah had regained her composure somewhat, and I slowly pulled back the sheet to reveal our friend in all his partially dissected glory. His chest and abdominal cavity were wide open, his neck muscles flayed out like gills. Sarah just narrowed her eyes. “What’s that?”

The appearance of a cadaver bears little resemblance to a living person. Being pickled, the flesh is rubbery and colored like dark meat tuna. The organs are dense and friable like pate. They were nothing like the vibrant, undulating, primary-colored innards we would soon be encountering in our surgery rotations.

I noticed Sarah studying his as-yet-undissected genitalia. “Why is it so…swollen?” I explained that there were two schools of thought. One, shared by me and my two male colleagues, had it that there was a post-mortem phenomenon related to fluid shifts, that had rendered Marty’s man-parts engorged beyond all proportion to living reality. The Delicate Flower had a different take: “You guys are pathetic you know that? What, you’re threatened by a cadaver? A cadaver?! Marty was hung like a bear. Live with it.”

Continued Tomorrow

Published in: on December 8, 2006 at 1:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

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