― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
A sea of bodies swarm outside the Laboratory of Anatomical Enlightenment. Some students are hanging in the periphery either quietly scoping out the pool of potential lab partners while others gaze at the ground clearly nervous or perhaps more shy about meeting so many people at one time. My insides want to be on the outer edge of the circle looking in, but I see the author of my favorite anatomy books and decide that now is not the time to give in to my shy nature.
I introduced myself to Joseph E. Muscolino and tried not to act like a total dork. I am not a start struck kinda gal, but I definitely get a bit giddy around really intelligent people whom I deeply respect. He was delightfully welcoming and easy to speak to. I was cool on the outside but doing little back flips on the inside when he asked if I would like to be one of his team members, (inside: duh,,, yes!!!!! Outside: That would be lovely, I also have two friends here with me would you be willing to add them to the team...) The team was then created, Joe, Me, Corinne, Bea, Jenna, Kim and Karin. More delightfully still was that Karin, originally from the UK but living in Dubai, is the teacher to many of my friends there and we got a bit girly about the many mutual friends that have been on our journeys. The world and connections merged even more as I continued the conversation with Joe and Km and found again mutual friends creating more familiarity and trust as a group.
The early part of the morning is all logistics. It is clear that we must have very set standards and guidelines to have this entire process work with all the teams and have all of the individual projects coordinated amongst all of the groups. I was comforted by the balance between academic clarity and an openness to the emotions that might come up as part of the process. Unlike a pure medical cadaver lab where you are encouraged or rather it is insisted that you completely disconnect from all emotional response, here they educators (Thomas Myers and Todd Garcia) create a safe atmosphere to have this be a spiritual, emotional, and deeply human experience as we are learning.
Each person shared where they were from, their name, what they did for a living, and what specific anatomical structure they were most excited to see. Some students were certainly trying to impress the crowd with their background and knowledge, Usually one of the facilitators pried at them in a jovial way to bring them back to earth, most of the others were nervous as could be (myself included). This sweet gentleman Craig was asked to expand upon a concept and got so flustered he proclaimed that he just forgot every muscle in the body he was so nervous. I loved him all the more for his vulnerability. I stated I was a yoga teacher and acrobat who was interested in the Median Nerve and the intrinsic muscles of the hand. I got put on the spot when Todd asked me to do a handstand right then and there in the lab. I figured that was easier than choking on my wods in front of strangers and popped up to my comfort zone and held a lovely handstand. My nerves had calmed by being in the happy place of my physical side. It also made it easy for people to come talk to me later (much better for me as I feel shy and awkward about approaching strangers, but I am fine if people approach me. I still have to work out that human idiosyncrasy
before reaching enlightenment). In anycase That was not an expected moment, but the universe seemed to be helping me out of my first full day, back to school jitters.
About an hour before lunch we are introduced to the cadavers and we get an opportunity to check out each one before deciding what one we might be working on. All of the subjects are in their seventies and have transitioned due to natural causes. Each one has chosen to give of themselves in death as a gift to be studied. Each body will be treated with extreme care and while we may be dismantling the individual structures,all of the remains will be returned to the facility in Utah to be cremated and returned respectfully to their families of loved ones.
Our team lands with the smallest subject in the room. The Cadaver is female and extremely thin. We have chosen her because with very little adipose (fat) on the body, she would be a great model for subcutaneous nerves and it would be easier to see veins and nerve pathways. The group decided to name her EVE and we circled around to take an overall scan and check her general range of motion at the joints before beginning the dissection. It was so fun to watch the little kid show up in Joe as he checked the details of the ROM (Range of Motion). He has run his own cadaver labs, but always with treated cadavers which means they are all stiff. When you work with untreated cadavers as we are the body will respond to movement much the way it would in its animated state. For the record since there is no life force present there is no pressurization in the body which means that when we make the cuts there will be no splatter of fluids. It is amazing how many non anatomy studying friends thought that one cut and blood was going to spurt out. I think people watch too many weird scary movies. This is not the case here.
The technical side today we removed the skin from what ever was visible from the supine position (lying face up). First cutting down to the dermis and leaving the fat layer known as the hypodermis intact. This was a bit more difficult on our subject as she really didn't have much in the way of fatty tissue anywhere. The table next to us had a more plump specimen so a peek next to us gave us a prime example of the hypodermis. Our group also had less to do when it came down to removing the fatty layer to reveal the fascia profunda where we can begin to see all of the superficial layers of the musculature. We kept a few of the skin flaps because we have such a great example of the subcutaneous nerves and some beautiful examples of veins particularly in the right arm and the left leg.
On the human side of the journey I was grateful for Thomas reminding us of how things like death get swept away from us, out of view and out of site. He brought it home that Sex, Mental Illness and Death used to be something we had to deal with in tribes and cultures, but as populations have expanded we have now separated this things out of the human process. We touch upon them from time to time, but we do not have the scope of the full human experience in the way we once did. Death is an essential part of life. In yoga it is one of the Kleshas (the obstacles) not the death itself, but rather our clinging to life,; our over attachment to the physical form when we all know the conclusion is inevitable. Part of the path is surrender. Part, may be faith or at the very least comfort in the not knowing the outcomes of transition but being willing to take the next flowing aspect of the journey.
After a super long day that is much more physically intense than one might imagine as well as fatigue from complete mental focus it is good to chge the pace and the scenery. I was happy to learn that an acroyoga acquaintance of mine had opened a studio called AcroBody about 10 minutes from where we were. Four of us ventured over after lab to take a HandStand class. It was the perfect medicine to dive back into the physical practice after all f the mental work. All of our legs were tired from standing all day at the tables dissecting so the inversions were a great release to get onto the hands and get the feet up in the air.
It is time for bed now since we have four more days of a long and tight schedule. I am a sponge for the knowledge that will present itself. tam thankful to be working with such and amazing team. I thank you for sharing in my adventures and will check in with you tomorrow.
May our thoughts be clear, our words be kind and our hearts remain open to give and receive love.