Monday, June 30, 2008

Disgusting and Delightful

Well, it's been an interesting week to say the least. It started out with us visiting our friends in Golden. We got to see a lot of people we hadn't seen for a long time and found lots of fun things to do in the coming weeks. It should be great. I am always amazed at how, even though we all came from the same starting gate (college) we've gone on to all lead different and in their own ways interesting lives. It makes me feel kind of proud really.

The next day in lab, I came across the first thing in all of medicine that has made my stomach turn. Now, I have to preface with the fact that I truly appreciate the gift that the cadaver donors have given us. It truly is the most effective way to understand human anatomy in all its glory. And in all its nastiness. I'm a teaching assistant for the physician's assistant and physical therapy students, and for the first time they were opening the chest cavity. This is always an exciting day in the lab because everyone is interested to see just what makes us tick, literally. Be warned, the rest is quite gross, so hide your eyes if you're squeamish. One of the PA groups opened up the chest to find, not a normal lung, but a giant glob of, well, goo. Looking at it (like a pathologist, here comes the food analogy) was like looking at severely overcooked macaroni, and me being curious me, I had to stick my hand in it. I mean, in anatomy texture is everything, it tells nerve from vessel, muscle from fat (as if the translucent yellow color didn't do that anyway...) etc. Never in my life has my stomach actually turned upon feeling something until I stuck my hand in that goo. I honestly thought I might be sick. I won't go into the details of what it felt like, but suffice it to say, nasty. I had no idea what it was at the time, but I was quite sure it was not a lung, nor was it ever a lung. I was right about that. The professor found her way over (remember, imangine tiny little Edna from the incredibles) and told us all it was what happens to infection during the embalming process. Then she grabs a bucket, reaches in and scoops it all out while we all stare aghast (with mouths closed, that's one mistake you only make once) as if it were nothing. And to her (after 20+ years in the lab) it probably was. Turns out the cadaver had an abscess in the pleural cavity and during embalming the protein mixed with the fixative and voila, gooey mess. Once all of the goo was out, the lung was found, compressed into a tiny fist sized mass at the very back of the thoracic cavity. The cause of death of this cadaver was COPD, and I'll give you the obstructive part, but I think there may have been more to it than emphysema might infer.

But moving on from the disgusting, onto the delightful. On Wednesday last week I flew back to the homeland to see the fam. I am not a great flier. I get really nervous and I suppose I could be described as a "white knuckle" flier. I'm too embarrased to talk with my doc about getting some meds prescribed, so I medicate in my way with a prescription for vino. Before J brought me to the airport I polished off the organic white I got from whole foods for just such an occasion (to be fair there was only one large glass left!), then made up a mojito, a double, and we headed off to the airport. By the time my "treatment" was over and I made it through security (why am I always behind the person who has 47 million electronic devices to dig out of their carryon, seriously, who needs two laptops at a time?) I had to run to catch the final boarding call for my flight. But I made it. And unfortunately it was the most turbulent flight I'd ever been on. I told myself I wouldn't buy a drink on the flight, but no sooner had I asked for my water than the pilot gets on the overhead to explain the turbulence. One of our breaks on the landing gear was overheated and they had to let the landing gear hang out to cool off. He tried to say it was "something that just happens at high altitude." Right. In anycase, this is what I had in front of me in a matter of minutes.

Unfortunately, within another matter of minutes, I had a red mess as I spilled my little glass all over with nothing but my little cocktail napkin to clean it up, so my copy of the Onion was lost to its higher purpose of cleaning up my wine spill. Luckily there was still plenty in my mini bottle. Crisis averted. When we eventually landed, there were fire trucks waiting for us, high altitude my arse.

But, I made it home and had a great, albeit short, trip. I tried my hand at the Wii for the first time, and I came home actually sore from the experience. Time to take up weight training I think. So, so sad when little miniature tennis makes you hurt.

I got back to high altitude on Saturday (sans break incident this time) and pretty much slept the whole day away.

Sunday I had the privlege to attend a birthday party for one of my good friends from med school. She made a point of telling everyone there how much we all mean to her, and all of her family and friends from when she was little were there. It was a great time and I felt really special for being able to participate. I am glad that med school has been bringing unexpected rewards such as friends like LG. It makes the whole process so much more bearable.

Well, it's a holiday week, and it might turn out to be an even shorter week for us than it is usually. The PAs are the only group scheduled in the lab on Thursday, and in the interest of having a long weekend, they are probably coming in tomorrow, leaving me with 4 days off. Sweet.


The Maiden Metallurgist said...

Sounds like a lillt fun, a little not so fun. I look forward to seeing you soon.

Lizzie M said...

I made it through the post without getting too squeamish, but I'm sure I would not have even been able to be in the same room as the cadaver, let alone NOT lose my lunch at the sight of that! Here's to the doctors of the world :)