29 April 2005

Cadaver Day

A nearby community college hosts an event each year that they term "Surgical Demonstrations." What it's really about is showing cadavers to advanced high school students in order to further their knowledge of anatomy.

This is the third year that I've attended the event. The Anatomy teacher at my school also goes. Kids are invited to drive over after school and see the presentations with us. No one is required to go. Students who do are usually the ones interested in the medical field---some of whom want to know if they can handle being around a cadaver before they get involved with nursing or med school. This isn't the kind of field trip where you get a lot of "looky-loo" kind of kids...although there is the occasional student who came along due to peer pressure.

Anyway, the first year that we did this, the Anatomy teacher and I went earlier than the kids. Neither of us had encountered a cadaver during our schooling. We were curious as to whether or not we would be ones running from the rooms. As it turns out, it's really an okay kind of thing. The cadavers are obviously people...very much human...but their "person-ness" is not present, if that makes any sense. To me, having to attend a "viewing" before a funeral is far creepier. I have a hard time dealing with a recently departed someone who has been made up to look as though they're still who we knew.

The demonstrations always have at least one whole cadaver. They get a new one each spring and keep it for two years. There is a class of students who takes care of prepping the specimens. There is also another cadaver that is not whole. Parts are in different rooms (a chest cavity and head here, a leg there, a lower torso hither, and an arm thither). Each room then focuses on something specific: cardiac anatomy or reproductive organs or blood vessels. And as morbid as that sounds, it's actually okay, too. It is as if their state of detachment also allows you to mentally detach a bit and focus on the information without being distracted by "Oh my God! That man is holding a leg...a human leg with no human attached! And that girl is showing me the inside of the knee!"

We had a very good turnout this year. Between the two groups (Anatomy and AP Bio), there were at least 25 students. They all seemed involved in what they were seeing and learning. I'm sure it was an experience that they will never forget.

Mind you, I had to juxtapose all of this information with finding out that a former student of mine had died. Apparently, he died (car accident) almost a week ago...but in my building's inimitable style, no one bothered to pass along that information to those of us who had had this young man in class just a couple of years ago. I wasn't particularly close to this kid, but I liked him and he always had interesting questions and comments. He's not a name without a face to me.

Time for a glass of wine and a start to the weekend, I think.

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