Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Anatomy, with help from Hollywood (PG)

A good summary of the past week would go something like this: Gross Human Anatomy at Johns Hopkins is no joke. It's the most interesting class I've ever taken, but I've never studied so hard or worried so much in my life. Learning anatomy is like learning a new language. Sure, the components haven't changed for hundreds of years (pollo still means chicken, right?), but that does not mean that it's easy to memorize hundreds of vocabulary words in one night. I mean, gastro-omental and pancreaticoduodenal are not excatly terms I use in everyday speech. Wearing scrubs does make me feel super official though.

Other than the intense terminology, class has been incredible. In our first week, we opened the thorax and dissected the pleural (lung) and mediastinal (heart) spaces. Cadaver dissection is not for the feint of heart. For example, here is a summary of how we excised the heart:

Ok, maybe we dissected more with scalpels in a lab than in the Temple of Doom with my fist. Still.

This week we are dissecting the abdominal cavity and, so far, it hasn't been quite so gruesome. We identified the inguinal ligament and the tendinous intersections of the recus abdominis, which are indicated on the living model in this photograph with red and yellow arrows respectively:

Ok, ok, so I didn't have to use a scene from Troy to illustrate my point. But why not? Plenty of people appreciate Brad Pitt's inguinal ligaments.

I believe that this class is transforming me into a new class of super nerd. Not that I needed any help from Hopkins. I am beginning to see anatomy in everyday life, which could be a direct result of how much I am studying everyday (let's just say a lot). I was eating a snack while studying last week and, upon looking at the remains of said snack, immediately came to this conclusion inspired by Totally Looks Like:

To answer your question, yes, I was so excited by the similarity that I took a picture of a grape stem. Notice that the right branch is indeed shorter and bigger than the left branch as seen in the bronchioles in humans. Clearly, I have moved beyond mere "nerd."

Tomorrow we move into the abdominal cavity underneath the muscle layers. I'm hoping we don't find something like this:

(This is the scene from Spaceballs because I thought the one from Alien was just a little too PG-13.)

Going through the cadaver is still fairly mindblowing. When I was little, I thought that my body was just magic. I put food in, it scrumbles around in there somewhere, and comes out the other side. I hear my heart beat faster when I'm scared and when I get cut, I bleed. If you had asked me to draw what my "insides" looked like, it probably would have been a huge cavity with teddy grhams and peanut butter sandwhiches at the bottom, one hole for the mouth and one for the "2." This class is systematically de-mystifying my own body. I'm still not sure how I feel about that because I still consider life miraculous.