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“Getting a Grip”

Tuesday: August 11, 2015

I am reading like mad to get ready for this upcoming semester. For Human Paleontology, one of the books I have chosen is hopefully a light read overall, but educational in the sense that it will teach the bigger evolutionary story of human evolution: Neil Shubin‘s Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion-Year History of the Human Body.

I have paused in my reading of Chapter 2, titled “Getting a Grip” because his experience so exactly mirrored my own during the Human Cadaver Prosection program last summer and I wanted to share:

“The moment when we removed the sheet and saw the body for the first time wasn’t nearly as stressful as I’d expected. We were to dissect the chest, so we exposed it while leaving the head, arms, and legs wrapped in preservative-drenched gauze. The tissues did not look very human. Having been treated with a number of preservatives, the body didn’t bleed when cut, and the skin and internal organs had the consistency of rubber…It was all very mechanical, detached, and scientific.

This comfortable illusion was rudely shattered when I uncovered the hand. As I unwrapped the gauze from the fingers – as I saw the joints, fingertips, and fingernails for the first time – I uncovered emotions that had been concealed during the previous few weeks.”

(Vintage Publishing, 2009, p28-29)

I remember having a very strong reaction to my First Patients’ hands. I had found it so odd that the knuckles and fingernails would be such a trigger, of all things. I was happy to have felt a connection, too, even though the emotions startled me. While it worked in my favor, perhaps, to remain so detached in the lab, there were times I wondered what was wrong with me!

My respect and gratitude to all our First Patients, once again.

As an aside, I had to choose books somewhat blindly due to the limited time frame of me knowing what I would be teaching and the delay in shipping review books and the pressure for the bookstore to order things in a timely manner for the students to have on the first day of class. Oi.

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