You can remember the very first day you walked into the anatomy lab as if it were just yesterday. The smell that welcomed you still lingers in your memories. No matter how much you scrub, that smell will never leave you. You remember uncovering your cadaver for the first time. She was someone’s mother, daughter, wife, friend, and so much more. Now, she is your teacher and your first patient. You take off the coverings and the smell hits you even more so, as if that could be possible. Your group consists of 3 other medical students and this will be your group’s cadaver for the next 11 weeks.
The First Incision
The four of you are standing around her with one scalpel. We all look to each other to see who will make the first incision. None of us have done this before so we are unsure of what to expect. I gently pick up the scalpel, look to my group members who nod in confirmation, and I proceed to make the first of many incisions to come. The first incision is made and it is unremarkable, just a slight view of fat comes into focus. I expected something more or maybe less, I cannot decide. We use our anatomy books and continue to open her up.
Organs In Sight
The first organ that we see while delving into the abdomen are the small and large intestines. I am completely mesmerized by how accurate the pictures of the intestines are. We take out the intestines from the body and set them aside. I have the anatomy book sitting to my right and the intestines to the left and am going through the images and matching them up with what is reality. It is remarkable.
The First Night
As we finish up our first day, I start to clean up and tell my partners they can head home as I don’t mind finishing the last bit of clean up. As they leave, I take a look at her. She is completely powerless. A wave of sadness washes over me at the idea of a life that was. I walk home and immediately jump into the shower. As I scrub myself, the bathroom becomes overwhelmed with the smell of the anatomy lab. I begin to cry for her. I cannot hold back my tears as they overflow from my eyes.
It is she who was my first patient, my first anatomy “book”, and my first patient encounter in medical school.