Donors

When I learned that I would be involved in a dissection-based course at my local community college, I was both nervous and ecstatic. Prior to this, I had taken a lower-level Anatomy course at the same school where we were exposed to donors a handful of times during the muscle and organ units. However, with this course, I would spend all year dissecting the same donor from beginning until end. I was anxious about such an intimate hands-on experience – not because of the smell or the sight – but because this donor was, in all aspects, a human. Before the start of class, I spoke to my mother, a religious woman who respected the field of science. She was just as excited for me, but also warned me to not step foot into our house until I had changed out of my scrubs. She believed that any piece of tissue that I brought in could be carrying the spirit of the donor. While the sentiment sounded absurd, I didn’t dismiss the idea that this donor could very much still be around in spirit and thus, he or she deserves all the respect that I would give to any individual alive.

On the first day of this two-part course, we all walked into our tiny cadaver lab filled with previous years’ donors and separated into two groups. There were two new donors labeled ‘male’ and ‘female’ and half of us were assigned to the female donor. We were instructed to open up the body bags and simply examine the donor thoroughly, keeping surface anatomy in mind. We were to pinpoint any irregularities in our notebooks including freckles, wrinkles, and hair. That exercise allowed me to really appreciate my donor, before I ever laid a scalpel against her skin. As I walked around the gurney, I noted the laugh lines around her eyes, the mole on her back, and her small frame overall. At the end of that first class, my instructors provided some background information on the two donors and we learned that my donor had passed away in her late 80s from complications of dementia. We were also allowed to assign names to our donors. We were to work as a group to come up with a name that seemed to fit best with our donor given our recent exercise. While in retrospect, I understand why that would be considered dehumanizing as these donors had names prior to death, by allotting them names, they were not simply “cadavers” anymore. These cadavers, or donors, were now real people. Even to this day, when someone asks about my donor or when I speak to other members of my group, I immediately speak about my experience with “Charlotte”.

After that first day, every time I walked into the cadaver lab, I felt as if I was greeting an old friend. I spent more hours by the side of my donor than I did in other classes. One day, I was working on the posterior aspect of her forearm, and in order to get a good angle, I clasped her hand. I paused for a second, gazing at my fingers intertwined with hers, not out of fear or disgust, but more so out of a sense of camaraderie. This donor had just as much of a stake in our dissection project and acted as both a teacher and an additional group member. As I would work on her arm or abdomen, I would wonder what her life was like and how she ended up making that decision to donate her body. Back home, I would speak to my family or friends about the progress we made on my donor’s body, such as holding her heart or taking out a kidney. But I would also share learned tidbits such as how “Charlotte” was not a smoker given the state of her lungs and how she opted to have a hysterectomy. There was never a moment during that semester where I felt like I was being forced to come into lab. Instead, every day felt like another day where I was able to learn a little more about my donor.

At the end of this two-course series, my class had the opportunity to visit BODIES: The Exhibition. As a scientist, I was excited to see the various displays and further my knowledge about the human body. When I walked into the exhibit, I was immediately greeted by models of humans, muscles exposed, performing acts such as running, riding a bike, and singing. At first glance, I did not think much of these models, believing them to be gimmicks to entertain the younger crowd. I was later informed, however, that these models were actual plastinated donors and upon learning this, my opinion of the exhibit quickly soured. There are many ethical concerns behind displaying human tissue and bodies in a public setting such as with the BODIES exhibition. Yet, placing actual donors in various positions and having them perform acts seemed rude and childish. I do believe that if I had walked into this exhibit, prior to taking a dissection-based Anatomy course, I would not have had such a strong, adverse reaction as I did then.

Having spent two years in that cadaver lab, I felt extremely comfortable approaching my donor in Medical Gross Anatomy. For my fellow group members, however, this was their first time seeing a donor and facing the idea of death. Respecting this, I tried to give them as much space and time possible to allow them to acclimate to the idea of our donor. It is a different experience entirely, watching others handle donors and how they grow as both individuals and future healthcare providers by the end of the semester. I watched one of my group members confidently remove the skin from the face of our donor when on that first day, she struggled to even pierce the donor’s skin with her scalpel blade.

Spending two and a half years working on donors has allowed me to grow both professionally and personally. Working with a group of three or four other individuals always promotes teamwork, but when your point of focus is a donor, it just forces each and every member to communicate more and practice more caution in his or her actions. I cannot imagine a program where donors are not an intricate part of the curriculum for where would one learn these valuable and necessary traits?

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Episiotomies

My honest reaction when I watched my first episiotomy while shadowing an OB in Thailand. That was about four years ago, but to this day, episiotomies still give me the heebie jeebies. They are the sole reason why I’ve ruled out OB/GYN as a future speciality, but who knows, maybe one day I’ll get over the fear.

Unplugging

With how intricately social media intertwines with our daily lives, it is getting harder with every passing day to unplug all together. At the start of the year, I came in thinking I would deactivate Facebook so that I could focus on school, distraction-free. I soon realized, however, that student-made study guide, tips, and news were all usually shared on Facebook first. I have always been one to Snapchat adventures when traveling, but in school, with students who are considerably younger and therefore, part of a generation that snapchats every mundane detail of their lives, it is easy to be sucked in to that culture where you constantly reach for Snapchat. Likewise, memes are huge for this generation and I constantly receive tags and messages on Instagrams of memes applicable to our daily lives. I speak of this younger generation as if I was considerably older, which I’m well aware that I’m not. However, I do see an uninhibited addiction to social medial from my younger classmates, whereas I always seem to have this internal battle of what might be considered “too much”. Thus, due to this inner turmoil, I figured Spring Break would be the perfect excuse to simply unplug. Yes, that means all those streaks that I had going on Snapchat will dissolve. And I’ll have to go a week without hearing inside jokes on Facebook messenger or getting class updates in our Facebook groups. But I think, this will provide some clarity and peace of mind that I have long sought after. What can I say, I am trying to turn my life around – trying to move away from waking up in the morning and immediately checking all my social media accounts. Move away from agonizing over snaps sent without a reply back or unread messages. Will it be difficult? Absolutely – like an addict, I have this itch, this urge, to check everything due to FOMO (fear of missing out). Let’s see if I can last the next 8 days. Cheers!

[E/I]NFJ

9 years ago, I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test for my AP Psychology test and was dubbed ENFJ, or “The Giver”. Despite numerous claims that this test is unreliable, I continued to score the same results taking the test 6 months and then a year later. I was convinced that this was my persona. However, a lot has changed in 9 years, and honestly, all I can say is thank god, because when I read my posts from 2009, I cringe with embarrassment. 17 year old me had completely different perspective on life – more optimistic, more naïve.

I finally reached a point in my life where I am satisfied. I am where I want to be in at least one aspect of my life. So that being said, I decided to take the test again, and lo and behold it is almost exactly the same as my results 9 years ago. Except, I am leaning more towards being an introvert than extrovert. But if you look at the breakdown below, you can see that I am pretty much split 50/50. Taking the test again, after a glass of wine, leads to pretty much the same results, except as you can see below, the scale has tipped back to being extroverted.

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Daydream Thoughts

It’s almost 2PM this rainy, Sunday afternoon and I still haven’t found the motivation to watch these last three lectures. Finding motivation has been hard this weekend. On one hand, I could journey to MANS and get myself into ‘school mode’, but I know I won’t retain the information. I think it’s the latter that’s keeping me from starting these lectures on the pelvis. I need to be in the right mindset to tackle such an intricate concept.

Among my bouts of daydreaming, I think about my life before and can’t help thinking that that “A” was an entirely different person. I enjoyed my life where I made money, but at the same time, I am more satisfied where I am right now, actively working towards my future. I guess every step I made was a step forward in a sense, but here I am – hundreds of miles away from home – taking medical school courses! I’m interacting with future physicians, current physicians, and academics who blow my mind by their passion. I think that’s why this past week has been so dull – without anything to do, I’m left daydreaming, or bingewatching TV, or eating my weight in snacks. So unlike my peers, I’m very excited that classes are back in session tomorrow. Yes, six MGA lectures taught by a meticulous professor sounds daunting, but it’ll give me the drive necessary to keep going and not just sit here and think.

Awkward Stage

Let’s be real, when have I ever not been in some sort of awkward stage? Pre-teen years, teenage years, young adult years – maybe it’s just me, I am and will forever be awkward. But being in school at this stage of life has been a bit unnerving. They said the average age for medical school is 25 – so really, I should think great, I’m right where I’m supposed to be. However I feel like I’m caught in the middle. Perhaps it’s because I’m in the South where marriages tend to happen sooner. Or maybe because it’s a relatively small town. But I feel like I’m caught in between two types of people. On one hand, you have the fresh out of school students who want to continue living out their college years by going to parties, drinking daily, and goofing around. On the other, you have the students who are married and/or have children and despite their age (as some of them are younger than me!), they are very formal, by the book, with no interests in socializing. I know I’m not twenty-one, but I’m also not an “old fart”. I want to hang out with friends, watch Netflix, maybe go to a movie, hike, etc. But I also don’t necessarily need alcohol in the picture to have a good time. I want friends who are at a similar point in life where I am – they’ve grown a bit so they’re not searching for the crazy, but who still enjoy exploring and winding down.