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Student Blog - Part 4: First term - Reality Bites: The Trials and Tribulations of Dissection

A large part of this year is the anatomy. Sadly, there isn’t time to actually dissect a cadaver but the little time we get is invaluable. Going into the Dissection Room (DR) for the first time was extremely difficult for me. Apart from the overwhelming smell from the formalin (I instinctively breathe through my mouth as soon as I get a whiff of it) I struggled being in a room populated mainly by dead people. Our introduction was handled beautifully. We were given a very sensitive lecture a few days before our visit where we were reminded of our duties and the privileges that have been bestowed on us by the people who’ve donated their bodies and by their families who are still waiting for a funeral to finally put their loved one to rest. Some families wait for nearly 3 years to do this. And then a few days later they brought us to the DR for us to acclimatise. I found it very emotional. I didn’t want to touch the cadaver. And I couldn’t help but look at their face. Some people fainted (not me!). I felt queasy after. It’s said that people fall into 2 categories when it comes to anatomy sessions; those who are starving hungry after and those whose stomachs turn at the thought of eating. I clearly fall into the latter category.

But here’s the shocking part. By the end of the term I’d acclimatised. I still can’t stop breathing through my mouth. Nor can I stop being amazed at how beautiful the human body is. I still instinctively look at their face (and I hope I’ll never loose that respect). But I no longer get as upset as I did at the beginning. I appreciate what an essential part of our learning it is (no text book or animation can truly make you understand how it all fits together) and how honoured we are that these people donated their bodies for us to learn. I’m starting to focus on the learning. I now touch the bodies, hold organs in my hands. And dare I say this, I actually enjoy it.