Sunday, December 10, 2006

it's not everyday you get to touch a heart

Wednesday is our dissection day. As always, we don our lab gowns, put on our surgical caps, masks, and lastly, our gloves. What makes this Wednesday extraordinary or much more special than usual is the fact that we were on the topic of thorax2, more popularly known as the heart and lungs. Although it's another wednesday where we get to smell like formalin, cadaver, and mentos all in one, anticipation was building as we entered the anatomy lab. I slipped on an extra pair of gloves, just in case, and braced myself for the overpowering smell of dead bodies and formalin. The first thing I saw when I entered was the maggots lazing around in one of the long tables where a cadaver used to lay. I shook my head and thanked God that our cadaver wasn't fully ravaged by maggots yet. When I got to our John Doe, whom we fondly call 'tikboy', we said a word of prayer and went on to cut open the ribs and clavicle (collarbone), next came the heart and lungs. As we detached the heart from its attachment in the lungs and several blood vessels, we found blocks of blood clots in the arteries. We had to wash them clean before being able to section the heart and study its parts. Now, I might sound so nonchalant about this, but when I saw the heart and actually held it in my hands, it was so overwhelming. It's not everyday you get to hold a real person's heart in your hands, gloved though it may be.

Never in my entire childhood did I dream that one day I'd be able to hold a stranger's heart in my hands, nor did I dream that I'd be brave enough or have the guts to do it. As we studied the parts of the heart, the coronary arteries, ligamentum arteriosum (sounds like something from Harry Potter, eh?!--accdg. to Dr. Gonzalez), and all those other weird medical jargon I can't even pronounce, I marvelled at this special opportunity I had--that once in my lifetime, I could say
"hey, I was able to hold a human heart."