The Path I Walk On

January 24, 2011
By , Rochester Hills, MI
Thump, thump. The sound of our footsteps resonated in the narrow hallways of the lab. I stole a glimpse of my classmates, frozen and distressed. No one spoke a word as we put on our gowns and glasses. Walking into the lab, the pungent odor of formaldehyde lovingly welcomed us to another day of dissection.

Scalpel in one hand and forceps in another, I scrutinized the left arm of the cat for the common carotid arteries. My professor interrupted my search and called my group over to the adjacent room. Silently and anxiously, I took small steps into the room that housed the cadavers, now taken out of their bags. Then I saw my first dead body. The cadaver that I had imagined was a wax figure, but what stood in front of me looked real, yet lifeless, at the same time. With bated breath, I reached out to touch the arm. Cold. Moist. Heavy. My first contact with a “patient” to diagnose…and he had already died.

After each day, the smell of the formaldehyde clung on to my clothes more strongly than before, but the anxiety I felt working with the cadavers subsided. On the fifth day, we revealed the abdominopelvic cavity. “What’s that rock-like object?” Another student asked the professor. It was an aortic aneurysm. As my eyes focused only on the aneurysm, all of the other blood vessels, nerves, and organs disappeared from my field of vision. This caused death? It appeared to be the size of my fist, but the monstrous effect it had on people was incomparable to what my fist could ever do. It could kill a precious life. It could shed tears of the people who loved that life it destroyed. It could do so much and yet I, fashioned in a lab coat, could do so little.

Although this person passed away before having discovered the aneurysm, I wondered had this person come to me as a patient, would I have been able to detect it and treat him as a surgeon? To this question, there exists no answer. However, I realized that this person, who lay lifeless on the table, had given his last present – his body – to the future physicians who crowded around him, to me. In return, it was my duty to explore every inch of his body and study it, familiarize myself with it, and know it. Know it so intimately as I know my own and with this gained knowledge, apply it to save lives of my patients.

I will never forget that summer. The opportunity to peer into another layer of the human body affirmed my passion for anatomy and more importantly, the desire to treat patients as a surgeon. Exposed, the heart, lungs, stomach, and the other parts of our bodies appear vulnerable and fragile. As a whole, however, they form a human being with unlimited possibilities. My internships and volunteering opportunities at a family practitioner and plastic surgeon’s offices have steered me to the road of medicine, but the experience of studying a cadaver proved that this was the path I long to take. In the years to come, I cannot wish for anything greater than the endless fascination of the human body and elation I feel after treating patients. I have begun to embark upon a journey where dehumanization and compassion, hope and despair, life and death are incessantly coexistent, enveloped by the beauty of the human life.





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