So much has happened since I moved to Ann Arbor that it would be silly to try to go back too far. A few highlights of the weeks before medical school included building my own furniture, traveling to visit family in Maine, and inviting other incoming med students over for wine and cheese on my deck.
Since then, two very important things have started: anatomy lab and football season. The former is a lot of time with lots of cadavers and the latter is a lot of time with a lot of Maize. So, here we go.
Anatomy lab is enjoyable but intense. Few people are actually squeamish or resistant to the idea, but dissections are long, tiring, cold, and smelly. Fortunately for my group, we have a particularly interesting cadaver. From the outset, even before we (actually, I!) made the first cut into the back, we noticed a tube sticking out. At first we thought it was part of the embalming process, but soon discovered it went deep down, becoming what we think is a pleural drain for lung fluid.
I’ll be honest: the worst part of any dissection is the skinning process. Some people say you are “lucky” if you get an old woman who died of cancer because then she will be very thin, with little fat to remove, and have osteoporotic bones that are easy to break into. I know it sounds morbid, but the facts are accurate. During the dissection of the vertebrae and spinal cord, we actually had to chisel into the spine and…well…sometimes the force of the blows causes fatty tissue or bodily fluid to spray up onto you.
Last week, for the first time, we turned our cadaver onto her back to do a chest dissection. Low and behold, the right breast did not have a nipple, so we knew right away something was going on. As our team went carefully in, we cut out a breast implant — an old school one that was a plastic sack filled with yellow saline solution (no, none of your new, fancy silicon to be had here). Going deeper, we found that she had an enormous blood clot (think really, really big, like a gold ball) next to the implant; perhaps the clot had formed during the mastectomy. In all likelihood, she had breast cancer, as the pectoral muscle under the right breast was also missing, something the surgeon might have removed for fear of metastasis. As if that wasn’t enough, the dissection of the left side revealed a pacemaker in the heart and, finally, sternal staples in the center of her rib cage from open-heart surgery. Who knows what else we’ll find? It’s still only September.
(Sorry, no pictures of cadavers in anatomy lab. It would be disrespectful to the anatomical donations.)
Football, of course, has also started. Coming from a small, liberal arts college and from a family who doesn’t follow sports, the world of the Big 10 is exciting and terrifying to me. I didn’t realize how much I loved the whole scene until I found that before football games I actually start to feel like I used to before my own college cross country races: nervous, excited, energized, and completely unable to focus on school work. I still have no ability to follow every play of every game, but I enjoy the entire production so much it’s hard to resist.
The medical school students have a section that we all sit in, near the north end zone. I didn’t buy season tickets, so for the first two home games I have bought them from other med students who weren’t going to that particular game. The first week was great, since I took my weekly quiz Saturday morning, went briefly to pre-game happenings, enjoyed the whole game, and then went to Sava’s for dinner. The next week was equally great before the game: a quick morning run, some studying on my deck, and two different tailgates. By mid-way through this second game, I was starting to catch on to the cheers and songs, especially when standing with my friend who had been in the marching band as an undergrad here.
In other completely unrelated news, I had a dream that one of my feet had four toes and the other had six. I am not sure if this idea came from the fact that I have huge blisters from running (that sometimes seem as big as toes) or from the fact that we have been studying planned apoptosis in human development (such as when the webbing between fingers and toes in the human embryo undergoes programmed cell death). Who knows? I’m just curious about whether dreams about digit numbers signify something important.
On that note, I will leave you to enjoy your Monday while I go back to reading powerpoint slides from recent lectures. Until next time!