For 2 years we have been learning every little detail of the human body. I have seen thousands of pictures of different parts of the bodies from the hundreds of lectures I managed to pack into this ever-growing brain of mine. But no picture can compare to the hands of learning we just experienced at an intensive week-long cadaver lab.
8 people donated their bodies after their lives had ended – and we had 5 days to explore them from the inside out. Day 1 was intense: about 50 of us students circled around a room with 8 large white bags on tables. All at once, our teachers removed the bags – revealing the donors. As we slowly circled the room, every student was encouraged to touch each donor and recognize that these people had lived full lives and were now giving us an opportunity of a lifetime to learn what books can never teach.
The room was quiet and a respectful awe filled the air. Then, we chose our donors. About 7 students per donor…and the cadaver lab began. We started from the skin, then moved to the fascia…underneath of which revealed each individual muscle, tendon, nerve and blood vessels galore. Professors showed us examples of acupuncture, IV & stem cell needles going through layers of tissue and exemplified the importance of accuracy as to not hit nerves and arteries nearby. Every hour we learned something new about our donors…knee replacements, hip replacements, pacemakers, layers of scar tissue, hematomas, arthritis…
Then came day 4: We got to open the abdominal cavity. In one day I got to hold 7 hearts, 8 lungs, an eyeball, 4 livers, an ovary & uterus, and everything else you find in the abdomen. I was amazed at the anatomical variations between all of our donors. We saw everything from necrotic kidneys to polycystic ovaries, hepatomegaly, COPD lungs, cancerous lungs, enlarged thyroid…
Day 5: We freed the gastrointestinal tract in one piece (from the mouth to the rectum) and managed to dissect the brain with the spinal cord intact.
At the end of the week, I found myself AMAZED:
Amazed that I have been given a body that functions properly: I found myself taking a shower, in awe of my ability to even reach out and grasp onto the shampoo bottle.
Amazed that I have learned almost every part of the body with a knowledge deeper than I ever thought possible: I remember my mom telling me I’d be a great nurse when I was in high school…I replied, “I’ll never be a nurse…you have to learn the whole body and that’s way too much work”. Little did I know how passionate I’d become years later.
Amazed at naturopathic medicine that addresses the body as whole functioning unit that is beautifully and wonderfully made.
*Thank you to our donors and their families. Because of you, we will be able to serve our patients to a whole new level.