Saturday, June 18, 2011

Dear Mr. Cadaver

Dear Mr. Cadaver,

I apologize but I do not know your name. Nor do I know your story.  Or even what you died from.They don't tell us these things. I only know that I am truly honored to able to learn the intricacies of the human body by the sacrifice you made by not having a proper burial.

When I first entered the dissection room, the smell of formaldehyde? quickly overtook me. I was expecting that. But when, I saw dozens of bodies covered with white cloth, it was very surreal and I became somewhat emotional. I quickly gloved up, tied my plastic apron and walked to you, table#6. You were in the prone position, so I could not directly see your face. But I still wanted a look, and peaked under, and there you were with your eyes open...  Instantly, my thoughts were like the formaldehyde that ambushed my senses, and I  wondered about your soul.... In Islam, we believe a body should be buried very quickly after death. And here you were... lying there...  still very pink...your body was only to be desecrated further.

I still worry/ponder about these thoughts, but honestly, I've become so accustomed to you now. And sometimes, I forget you were and still are a real person.  We've skinned your back. We think you died of heart attack, because of your age and also because of the layers and pounds of fat we removed from your body.  We are very respectful to your body still, but we forget the sacrifice you made.  And this is why I write to you.

brachial plexus flashcard
When we dissected your arm and forearm, I was completely astonished at the complexity specifically the brachial plexus. I never knew or even imaged the armpit to be so complicated! We spend hours tracing the nerves and arteries from your armpit to your hands. And when I held your hand so I could dissect it, you once again became very real to me. I dunno there is something about finger nails, it makes a person seem so alive.... The hands are also so very complicated.

Monday you will be on your back, so we can work on your abdomen. It takes 3 men and a few women to rotate you.We feel terrible about how it's done, but we gotta do it. And soon enough as we dissect you further, you will be completely unrecognizable.

I've spent 24 hours with your already, and still did not do well on my first exam. I know I failed it. By how much will determine whether I will be allowed to continue with this program. Yea, I'm pretty much terrified. I'll be spending even MORE time with you just so I can pass...

And that is why I felt the need to thank you. You should not be desecrated without acknowledging your sacrifice and your importance to students of medicine. Pictures do not do the body justice.

 May Allah have mercy on your soul.

With respect and gratitude,
A thankful student.

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