Aroma Theron

Every week Perdeby sends their journalists to experience something out of their comfort zones. This week Aroma Theron attended an anatomy dissection.

Chances are that if you have a friend in second-year medicine, then you might have heard a few stories regarding a lot of studying and a lot of pulling a part and dream-crushing tests. Well, I am fortunate enough to be a second-year medical student and I would like to share my experience regarding anatomy dissection.

Before meeting our cadavers, we were given lectures regarding the respectful approach we needed to adopt when dissecting and we were also informed about all the support available from our faculty, when things start to get tough. When I decided to study medicine, I had always been a bit apprehensive when it came to the anatomy dissection part of the course. But when the time finally came around, I was open to it being a learning opportunity. In the introductory lectures, we were told that we must see our cadavers as our ‘first patients’ and as our ‘best patients’, as they can’t complain and we would learn the most from them. This turned out to be exactly the case when it came to my dissection experience.

We are lucky to have the majority of our cadavers donated by family members. Anatomy works in that every cadaver has two groups of four people doing the dissecting. The groups take turns between morning and afternoon dissection sessions. Thus, when entering the dissection room, we must revise the previous group’s dissection and complete our own dissection. The first steps through the doors of the dissection room always have our airways filled with the intrusive aroma of formalin. But let me tell you something, afterwards you will find yourself re-encountering this smell in the strangest of places like a supermarket or even a Tupperware box.

The intricacies of the human anatomy are absolutely astounding. I feel profoundly fortunate to be able to dissect a cadaver. My favourite part is peeling away the superficial layers to expose the muscle and then to appreciate the amount of labour that these structures must have performed. Everything has a nerve supply, blood supply and venous drainage that we are required to know.  I soon realised that every part and fibre of my cadaver had a story to tell of a life that was lived and I am lucky enough to discover these stories.

I am also constantly amazed by how perfectly our bodies and organs are designed for their functions. Subtle differences such as the wall of a chamber of the heart being thicker than another chamber, to be able to combat the extreme amount of pressure it is under, can only truly be appreciated when exposing these walls in an anatomy dissection. I will not forget the moment when I held my cadaver’s brain and realised that what I was holding was an entire person’s soul, dreams, fears, memories and sorrows.  Every day, when I step into the dissection hall I am rather appreciative of a life that was lived and on my dissection table to be able to learn and save more lives in the future.


Image: Elmarie Kruger

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