Personal Narrative: My First Experience With My Cadaver

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My first experience with my cadaver was quite memorable. The sights, sounds, smells, and textures disturbed me so much that I wrote an entire poem to convince myself that this man, with his lifelike chest hair and gelatinous moles, was only an empty shell that had housed a soul in the past. In comparison, my last day with the cadaver was unremarkable. I had gotten used to the stench of formaldehyde mixed with preserved guts; the thick, juicy layers of subcutaneous fat that so resembled meat trimmings; the nameless fluids and bits of tissue that had collected at the bottom of the body bag; and the act of cutting through something that had once been a living person. More accurately, these aspects of anatomy still bothered me during the first…show more content…
I found it easier to do this than to think about his life, personality, and physical pain. However, there were times when I was forced to face the fact that he was once alive. In one particular instance, my group flipped the body over, and the drape that covered his face fell away. My teammates were hasty to replace the drape and begin dissecting the anterior compartment of the thigh. But afterwards, I purposefully removed the drape again and took a long look. The face was ruddy, with a hint of white stubble on the cheeks and a prominent nose. I saw a middle-aged man who, in the days leading up to his death, had panted and wheezed as he struggled up the stairs on an arthritic knee. I had previously been annoyed with the cadaver for having lots of fat to dissect through, and for harboring several confusing anatomical abnormalities such as a horseshoe kidney, a spleen as large as a liver, re-routed intestines, a massive heart with abnormal coronary circulation, and fibrotic lungs – but then, I pictured this man attempting to manage all of that extra weight as he walked up the stairs, and I felt pity that he had carried such a burden in his last days. In my cadaver’s face, I also saw a man who might have enjoyed a few beers while watching football, or who might have called me “doc” had I encountered him in the hospital while wearing my white

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