A long post for a long day

April 3, 2013 § 7 Comments

Today was an exciting day. There was so much excitement in fact, that the relative excitement of each subsequent event trumped the excitement of that preceding it.

I started the day by flying out of bed with a loud gasp. This was in response to my sleepy eyes fluttering open, acknowledging the light of morning and checking my phone. “Skjalg, wake-up! It’s 8:18!!” Questions began to flood my mind: what day is it? What are we late for? What did we miss? Will we make it in time if we hurry? Why didn’t the alarm go off? How much time do we have? What did I need to get ready this morning before school?

Since our anatomy lecture started at 8:45, we decided to get ready at normal pace and head to school in time for our anatomy lab at 10:00. You can’t show up late to anatomy lectures. Period. Unless you want to risk being verbally reprimanded by the professor in front of an audience of your peers or, in some cases, shooed out.

(Exciting enough of a day yet, readers? It gets better, I promise.)

Fast-forward to anatomy lab. We piled into our anatomy “box” (their term for our anatomy dissection room) as we normally do. Some began to remove the organ specimens from the bags and unzip the bag containing our cadaver. Then one came in and said, “Hey guys! There is a cadaver out there that is so fresh it still has its socks on!”. True to med student nature, we went to investigate. There, in the middle of the hallway, between boxes 2 and 3, was a cloth-covered cadaver with two grey socks poking out. We knew immediately what that meant – demonstration of thoracic and abdominal organs on a fresh cadaver!

The lab period began with a demonstration of the lungs using our cadaver. It was a bit difficult to visualize because his lungs (and some other organs) were quite abnormal. Normally, the lungs are on either side of the mid-line and occupy relatively similar volumes of space, though the right is larger. The right lung of our cadaver had (presumably as a result of his cancer) grown across the chest towards the left side, occupying almost the entire area of the left lung as well as its own. Imagine your right lung covering your entire chest, from your right side to your left side. As a result, his left lung had more or less shriveled up and was found pressed far to the side, almost near the back.

Eventually one of the technicians came to tell our professor that it was our turn to view the fresh cadaver. I had no idea what to expect at that point. We’ve grown so used to the prepared cadavers that we see every week in lab and I guess that I assumed it wouldn’t be any different. The first word that popped into my head when our professor unveiled the body was: COLOR! It was like switching from fuzzy black-and-white to HD color television. The fat was a vibrant yellow, the muscle bright, healthy red, the intestines a glossy peach. The prepared specimens we dissect in lab every week are pretty much every shade of brown-gray, so I was completely transfixed by the colors.

The next word to pop into my mind was: movement. All the organs moved so seamlessly, gliding past each other with ease. All of a sudden everything seemed so much more real. Seeing a fresh cadaver reminded me just how amazing what we are doing is. After a semester and a half of anatomy, we don’t give it a second thought. We have become desensitized. Isn’t that what they say about some doctors? That they look at the body like a problem they need to fix and often fail to see the person, the life force, within the body? I’ve been there before. I’ve had plenty of doctors who made me feel unimportant, silly or uncomfortable. They knew my body better than I did because they knew its anatomy and physiology and they didn’t want to listen to me other than to hear a few keyword symptoms. As much as I disliked those experiences, I have to say that I am beginning to understand how that is possible. When you are around something all the time, it’s easy to take it for granted – even when you shouldn’t. I don’t go to the doctor every day, but they see me every day. A body is a body…

The last word to pop into my head was: smell. I don’t really want to elaborate here…let’s just say that I will take the burning, eye-watering hell of formaldehyde over that any day.

After the anatomy excitement, some of us piled in a cab to head to our next lesson: Medical Professionalism. This is the class where, for the beginning of the semester, we were introduced during lectures to the different departments of the hospital and for the second half, we will get to visit them. This week’s tour? Cardiology! The cab dropped us off in front of what looked like the ambulance entrance, but turned out to be the main entrance.

Posing with the ambulance outside


We got a little lost on our way to the cafeteria (had 45 minutes to kill before the lesson). Wandered around in the basement level for a while…passing numerous stretchers, boxes, and bags of used scrubs.

Lunch-break before the cardiology tour. Sat outside of the cafeteria area and tried to make some headway on my sociology article. We each get an article and have to write a paper and make a presentation on it. Our presentation is already next week!

Dressing for the part…

Clare, Avneesh, Rina, Sophie and Skjalg

21st century students

The presentation set-up

The cardiology building was amazing. Modern, bright and large, despite it only having 50 beds. The doctor guiding our tour around the hospital said that they have about 8,000 patients a year. At one point, we met a man who was being kept in an artificial coma for a week to keep him stabilized before implanting a pacemaker. I’d never seen someone in a coma before. As we stood there listening to the doctor describe what had happened to him, I couldn’t stop thinking that he might wake-up – and it was even weirder to think that he wouldn’t.

After our 2-hour session it was back into a cab to get to our next lesson: Medical Communication. Our schedules are messed up so one class ends at 15:00 and the other to begins at 15:00. That didn’t leave a lot of time to get from the cardiology department to our next class on the other side of the city. By the time we got there, it was almost 15:30. When I arrived to the classroom, I was surprised to see the professor and one student watching a funny YouTube clip about doctors on the projector. The first 7 weeks of this course was also lectures and our first practical began today. I’ve praised Medical Communication before (and even told my mom it was my favorite class) and was therefore excited to see that our professor was the same lecturer that made it my favorite class. He began the class by showing us the first part of this TEDtalk (up to minute 4:40, though the whole thing is worth the watch):

Afterwards we did some fun exercises in communication, which were rushed due to our missing the first portion of the class.

To close out the excitement of the day, we had one class left: Medical Informatics. It is a short course, only 4 sessions, and today was our first one. There were 3 different topics within medical informatics that we could choose from in the beginning of the semester and we chose scientific communication. The reason we chose it was because it required us to learn how to write a scientific paper – something that will definitely help us in the future. For the course, we are assigned a topic and expected to write a proper scientific article using research papers published on medical websites. We will also have to make a short power-point presentation to present the main topics of the paper (the same way as we would have to if we were presenting it at a medical seminar).

I was assigned “blood” as my topic and Skjalg was assigned “nerves”.  Our task is to find a symptom of a disease within our theme and then write a sort of “mock” research paper showing how we were able to get to our diagnosis. (Kind of like in the show House, where they list all the diseases associated with a symptom and then narrow it down.) Since my topic is blood, I have chosen uncontrollable bleeding as my symptom and von Willebrand disease as my disease. I’m really excited to investigate this disease further because it keeps coming up in my daily life (my histology book, my chemotaxis class, and even TV shows).

Ok, the excitement of the day has taken its toll – this little med student is off to bed! No proofreading for me -_-

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