Gross Anatomy: The First Patient

First year Gross Anatomy has come to a blissful close.  Throughout the semester, I’ve been drowning in anatomy.  I’ve been floundering in anatomy jettison: weekly entertaining lectures, down & dirty dissections, quizzes, the big midterm, embryology, lab practicals, and an even bigger final exam.  Now that my 3-day marathon of exams for this one class is over, I feel… liberated and triumphant. Well not quite yet, I still need to know my grades.

At Stony Brook, the class is termed “The Body,” like supermodel Heidi Klum’s sexy nickname. Except, the class is not at all sexy or like a glamorous Victoria Secret’s runway show. When I first started the class, I felt like I was walking through a horror movie. I tend to be squeamish, only recently getting used to the sight of blood and body parts. Hey, if I chose the medical path, I have to be a brave soul.

Walking in that first day, I panned around the fluorescent-white room to see a sea of white body bags. Scrubs on, hair up, scalpels ready, we began to unzip. Inside, a freshly-preserved human body awaited the first cut. The first dissection- the back muscles and spinal column. Glad I did not have to look in the cadaver’s face yet, I twitched at the slightest touch and yelped when bits of flying flesh hit me. Methodically, I peeled back the flap of skin and let the scalpel shave through the flowery fascia. At first glance, it looked like we were trapped in a sick movie scene, with all the 1st-year medical students slicing away at tissues and hacking away at the vertebrae like lumberjack carpenters. And yet, we all have the remarkable opportunity to delve into the human body to see the beautiful interplay of vessels, organs, musculature and pearly aponeurosis.

Oh, the many anatomical sketches I’ve drawn. Never have I enjoyed so much coloring and doodling since kindergarten and elementary arts & crafts. In preparation for lab and personal perfectionist tendencies, I have belabored over countless drawings of organ systems, muscle relationships, circulatory networks, and nerve pathways. It’s almost like embarking on a road to become medicine’s next top Netters. However, the man is just too talented, his drawings are absolutely legendary, and I can never dethrone the master of paper and syringe.

Anterior Thoracic Wall-My doodles

Netter's Anterior Chest Wall-See the difference?

Let’s not forget those endless hours glazing over the Netters’ atlas, especially when it came to studying the difficult pelvic region. I felt a little embarrassed studying a rather private area in a very public library. I also wonder who modelled for Netters when he sketched the naked macho-man flexing his biceps brachii and pectoralis major…

"Smell my neck"

To conclude, this is how I studied for my crazy finals. That weekend, I chilled in my room, freezing and freaking over the impending anatomy exams. The weather was terrible just by hearing the cries of the wind and tree branches whiplashing the icy air. I lounged on the living room couch, memorizing answers to old exam questions. That was not at all comfortable, because I was practically sinking into the couch. The next day, I migrated to my bed. $Bad idea$ You would think I learned my lessons from college, when I used to be lazy and study off my bed. Next thing I knew, I woke up at an awkward hour and still have a whole binder of notes to study before that day’s midterm. That’s why I always forced myself to either 1) stay up all night or 2) study in a stimulating environment, like libraries or Bobst. Now, that’s more difficult because 1) I live off-campus, 2) I do not have a car, and 3) it’s Stony Brook and nothing is within walking distance except the parking lot and Waldbaums.

So I camped out under my covers all day, bundled up in a sweatshirt and yoga pants. I felt like a catepillar in a cocoon. Aside from food and bathroom breaks, I was like the Energizer Bunny high off Chinese green tea. My bed was littered with diagrams and notes, Netter’s Atlas, and Stern’s Core Concepts & Clinical Sidelights. I spent a whole Monday staring at pictures of the head and neck, driving into my head every cranial nerve function and pathway. Oy… why did the facial and trigeminal nerve have to be so complicated? I should not be complaining, because technically, I would not be smiling or furrowing or feeling a titillating cheek rub without them.

Well, as it may have been guessed, I fell asleep next to Netters and Core. By around midnight, I started feeling drowsy and sleepy. I still had loads to study, but I told myself, “Okay, set an alarm for 4 am, wake up, and study some more when you feel refreshed.” That was not a realistic goal at all, because I kept sleeping. I woke up at 4 am, looked at a few questions, then flopped onto my pillow again. Then I woke up at 6 am, only to study for barely 5 minutes and fall asleep again. I did not actually pick up my lazy tushy until 10 am, when I finally found my focus. Well, by then, I felt more screwed than prepared. For some reason, I still can do well under pressure and cramming the morning of an exam. I believed in myself. The same episode happened again the next night. But hey, at least I got my sleep =)

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