Got about 4 hours sleep last night post-party, splitting headache for an 8am embryology lecture at the hospital. Fantastic. Thankfully it was very evident that I wasn't alone in my overzealous consumption last night and more of us than not looked pretty worse for wear. Thankfully the lecturer clearly knew what had occurred and seemed to be somewhat sympathetic to our plight.
Immediately afterwards, my small cohort trekked across the hospital to the surgical training centre, where we had been informed there would be a live tissue demonstration - which had never before been available during Week 1 at Warwick Medical School before. We worked through a series of six stations for 15 minutes at a time, each of which had different objectives. One for instance required us to identify muscle groups and dividing regions on volunteers and draw them onto the body, while others used preserved models to illustrate the passage of arteries and other vessels.
I found the live-tissue demonstrations absolutely fascinating, so much more 'real' (for want of a better phrase) than any anatomy textbook. Given the opportunity I could have happily sat for hours and prodded around, trying to find the labelled structures from my pre-reading. Thankfully I was able to follow what was happening, and it now doesn't surprise me at all that cadaveric teaching is still done in medical schools across the UK - I just don't know how you could get a proper feel for what the body actually looks like in practice otherwise. I was even able to place my finger inside the abdominal cavity of one specimen and feel the vessels running alongside the epiploic foramen, the area connecting the stomach to the liver. This was frozen, unpreserved tissue, so there was no smell of formalin or any other pungent preservatives.
It smelled like a butcher's shop, which I suppose is more or less what it was.
Following another seminar on the structure of the gut as applied to clinical practice, we had a clinical skills session on history taking from a now-retired GP (very clearly a master of this particular craft). We established a very quick overview of the structured steps one should take including the correct means of introducing oneself, gaining consent, exploring possible relevant systems etc, after which I had to leave for an occupational health appointment at the other side of the hospital.
Despite my almost-prodigious proclivity for getting lost that I did eventually find the office (admittedly with the help of a very cheerful nurse). Unfortunately there were severe delays due to shortstaffing, and my 2.30pm appointment did not actually materialise until 4.30 so I missed the rest of the session. Still, it was a good chance to learn more about some of my coursemates that were present and I was able to have the seasonal flu jab while I waited (for free, no less). I'm still due to have the BCG vaccine as well as hepatitis B, but global shortages of both are making that somewhat difficult. I needed a blood test taking for assessment, and forced myself to watch intently - I'm always surprised for some reason by how quickly the syringe fills, and the almost beautifully deep red colour of deoxygenated blood. I suppose I'll need to get used to both.
As we retreated to the car park at the end of the day, my housemate remarked that the live demonstrations seemed 'so real, like a real person' rather than just a model for the education of students. Another colleague had earlier mentioned the presence of the concealed head and feet as contributing to the almost ethereal feeling. I suppose that's very apt, that these donors will have had lives and families of their own, with aspirations that will now not ever be realised.
It did hit home that we do take a lot of things for granted, at least in my case where I'm lucky enough to still have both my parents and two brothers.
The thing is, I did not have any reaction of that sort at all, I was so intensely focused on the muscles and other exposed structures I had seen in the textbooks. I wonder if that perspective will change the next time we see cadavers, or even as to what the 'correct' way to think about donor bodies and organs is. Everyone clearly had a different reaction, and the staff were very understanding if people needed to step outside. I must ask people about this and get some other perspectives to consider.