From the other side – if cadavers could talk

Sadiya Khan, 4th year MBBS

Dear first year medical students, 

Welcome to the most awaited anatomy lab! I was bored of the eerie silence and  I am glad I finally have some company in this gloomy dissection hall. As you walk in armed with your new dissection kits, in your crisp white coats, I know there are a myriad of feelings coursing  through your body – anxiety, excitement, nervousness, fear and curiosity.  I assure you we’ll be good friends soon, so put yourself at ease.

The smell of formalin hitting your olfactory senses is probably making your eyes tear up and your nose feeling funny but you’ll be immune to it with time, just like I am. As you uncover my body, your eyes widen and some of you even faint making me wonder if it’s in awe or surprise. The professor starts giving you instructions but you seem to be distracted. I know that your mind is buzzing with a million questions about me and my life before death . Had I once been married? How old was I ? Did I have children who sat in my lap while I read to them? Did I die of cancer or did I have a sudden death? Did I have time to say goodbye?  I enjoy being mysterious so I’ll leave the answers to your imagination and I trust that you will at least give me a cool nickname. I want you to have fun while you learn so you are permitted to crack jokes when you’re around me and ooh and aah as you work on my innards. 

 As you make your first incision, I can sense your apprehension by your shaky hands. Beads of perspiration appear on your forehead as your professor quizzes you about the origins and insertions of my muscles. I am glad we didn’t have such scary professors in our time. I wonder if it shows that I was a fitness enthusiast and worked out for hours to tone those muscles that you now dissect. With every passing day you dismember different parts of my body.  You hold my heart that once beat every second of my life, lungs that once gave me breaths of fresh air, and my brain that holds memories of  a lifetime. I wish I could tell you about all the beautiful sunsets my eyes have seen, the many countries I set my foot on and the different people I’ve met but I guess that’s for another day. As you explore the intricacies of my body, your eyes shine with astonishment making me realize the beauty of our creation. I was unaware of the multiple organs and the thousands of arteries and veins  that have worked in sync and served me well for years. I hope you become aware of the gift of your own heart beat, your breath and firing neurons that give you life.

You probably know by now that I died of cancer. My life changing diagnosis reminded me of the transient nature of life and looking at me probably reminds you of your mortality. I hope you utilize the precious resource of time and enrich your life before the inevitable end.

I hope that I have helped you in your pursuit of knowledge. I wish I am forever  etched in your memory as your first teacher in medical school.  The world needs great doctors and I am sure that you will be one of them. Now I don’t wish to take up more of your time, so you can pick up your scalpel and continue exploring with me. 

Until next time,

Your practice cadaver.

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