ndab Ah Yes, Medical School: February 2004

Monday, February 16, 2004

On The Road

Apologies to Kerouc for stealing the title, but I would just like to proclaim that after 6 long months of anti-driving, I have successfully crossed the 1,000mi barrier and can now take my sexy new car (which I might add STILL has the new car smell due to lack of use) on the freeways of this city. What does this have to do with medical school? Nothing really, although I guess now it won't take me an hour to get to my preceptor because I won't have to use surface streets. But it might take me 5 hours to get home at around 5:30PM. Score!

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Holy Fucking Shit*

*(I should add that what follows is pretty graphic, so don't come whining to me later - just sack up and read it...it builds character)


What's with the profanity, you ask? Weeeeeeeeell, this afternoon falls under the category of things very few people get to do in this world that are ridiculously gross and at the same time surprisingly amazing. So without further ado I give you...Fresh Tissue Lab.

We reported in our scrubs at around 1pm and were instructed to put on an extra plastic splash gaurd, mouth/nose cover, and "booties" to cover our shoes. Needless to say, this was going to be a mess, and the level of clothing protection required was the hint. Sadly, there would be no boob exposure a la Janet in this lab (obligatory Janet boob joke? check.). In one room there was one recently deceased corpse, covered with a towel, while the second body lay in the other room. While waiting for other people to get their extra gear on, I wandered into the second room and found two pathologists in there, dissecting a baby girl who had just died of an extremely rare disease that partially consisted of an irreparable congenital heart defect. To say that this was a sad sight would be the greatest of understatements. I did not (could not?) look long before going back to the room and sitting with everyone else in the little bleacher section, waiting for instruction to begin.

We were split into two groups, and I was in the group with the female body. Unlike the anatomy cadavers, these were fresh; the woman had died very recently, and there was no preservation of any sort going on. About two weeks ago this woman was alive and breathing on her own, not knowing that in a short time we would be repeatedly violating her in ways that arguably go beyond any sense of human deceny. How's THAT for some bullshit, eh? But seriously folks, I digress. She had been pre-dissected, and one goal of this lab was to observe/palpate/feel how organs really felt in the body, not how they felt in the artificially preserved cadaver. The lung has the consistency of jello. So does the stomach. Actually, everything kind of feels like jello in there. It was pretty remarkable to feel how...squishy everything is. And if you would allow me a bit more bullshitting (last time, I swear - although shit makes a comeback two paragraphs down), I dare say that it was even a beautiful sight to see the inside of the body (everyting from the thyroid all the way down to the bladder) - you may never get a chance to know what I am talking about and you may think I'm a total sick fuck right now, but that's the honest truth. I think I have a much better idea of what the appeal of being a surgeon is all about.

But if that were all this lab was about, I would have nothing really nuts to talk about. After doing the anatomy part, we were told that we were going to be doing a rectal/male genital exam on the male corpse and a pelvic exam on the female corpse. Might I remind you that these are dead bodies. OK, just making sure you remember. Since I was with the female corpse, I got to do a pelvic exam. Well actually, I wasn't the first one to go. Before any of this, the 18 year old guy in our class (see "Realize What You Have, Damn It" below) was talking about the forthcoming pelvic exam and seemed to be on the verge of passing out over the prospect of seeing a vagina and having to insert his fingers in a dead woman's bling bling. So, naturally, after the doc finished going over the appropriate method of finger insertion (insert obligatory "Come hither..." joke/motion here) and demonstrating how to feel for the uterus, etc., we all moved out of the way to make sure he was the first one to have to do this. You may think we are total assholes...and we are. But the look on his face was priceless. As we repeatedly told him, today he became a man...or something like that. Anyways, a few people later it was my turn. Did I tell you she was dead? And she still had about 50 more finger probes to go between us and the subsequent groups today? Somehow I get the feeling this is not what they tell such terminal patients when they say their body will be "donated to science". Although I would imagine a conversation like the one that follows would probably not yield too many volunteers:

"Hi, we were wondering if you would like to participate in our will-body program with the medical school?"
"Please, tell me more."
"Well, when you die, about 100 medical students are gonna stick their fingers up your happy zone and wiggle them around in there, and they will probably be giggling uncontrollably. Some of them might stick their fingers up your ass, too. Are you familiar with 'The Shocker'? That's a technique we might teach them, if we have enough time."
"Sign me up!"

Right. There is something fundamentally wrong with what we were doing to the body of this poor old woman, but I'm not really quite sure how to express that. So instead, I'll just say that it was really, really...umm...ick (albeit very educational - I'm sure future living standardized female patients will appreciate that me and the others have some sort of clue as to what we are supposed to be feeling down there and not be poking around like crazy for hours because we don't even have a concept for what we are supposed to be feeling in the first place, which is the intent of this thing anyways). But that was nothing compared to the next room. We eagerly awaited the chance to do a rectal and male genital exam on the male patient and rushed over, giddy with anticipation. Yes, giddy. What we did not know was that there was a teeny tiny problem. Turns out there was no physical way to stick our finger up this man's rectum, even if we wanted to (which everyone did, of course) - for you see, something happened during the preparation and there was just loads of shit coming out of this man's ass. Unlike a previous blog entry ("Easing In") describing preserved shit in a preserved cadaver, this was authentic, US grade shit. And it smelled more hideous than any words could begin to describe. And it was all over the table and all over this man's genitalia. Which we still had to feel. Let's just say my white gloves weren't supposed to be brown at the end of this lab. I should add that I did learn one thing - I now would just like to thank my parents for being Jewish and inflicting a circumcision upon me, because that whole foreskin thing looks like a total pain in the ass to deal with.

After this was done, there were fresh small specimins in one room but I started talking to the pathologist who was dealing with the aforementioned tragic baby. He was very eager (maybe a little too eager) to describe the pathology of this poor baby and the rare disease he died from. Then, he brought out this bucket and shoved his hand in there, only to pull out this collection of organs, all still intact and all connected to each other. Basically, he made a few cuts inside the baby such that he could pull out the trachea (tube that goes to lungs) on one end and the colon (shit pipe) on the other and end up with this multi-shaped thing that was a foot long. He held it like a butcher would hold a slab of meat. Are you fucking kidding me? I couldn't decide if I should be in awe of how baby organs look compared to real ones (actually quite remarkable) or if I should be sick from the fact that this was a baby's insides the guy was holding with one hand and dangling over the floor.

Had enough yet?

Anyways, as you can tell, this is just one of those things remarkable that 99% of the world will never get to do. And this is also one of those things that is just really fucking gross, as I undoubtedly left out many other gruesome details. But at the same time, I think I have a new and greater appreciation for what is inside of me, so I guess that is worth something. And I did learn A LOT about anatomy, disease, etc. (I should add that this is a new program and part of this new curriculum business, and this is definitely a keeper). And I have a new sense of what death means, both to the patient and to the doctor. And I took the longest shower of my entire life right afterwards. Actually, I think I'm going to take another shower right now.