To begin with we were given a few words of warning, reminded of the rules of respect and engagement, informed about the assessment and sent off to meet our cadavers. Fortunately ours was of fairly slim build, making the process and technical requirement a lot less demanding. No trepidation this time round, getting straight on with the task. After a while it felt completely natural. In fact, it became therapeutic. Making cut after cut, peeling away layers of muscle, skin and fascia. That may sound somewhat contrived, yet it was a most satisfying and mentally purging experience - and before we knew it, it was lunch.
The anatomy itself was far easier to identify this time round. Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, serratus anterior and then ribs. A far cry from the bizarre mishmash of upper and lower limb muscles of the first year.
In our posse there was for some unknown reason four to the cadaver, with eight to a cadaver around the rest of the lab. Equally bemusing was that I’d somehow been put on the register twice, supposedly on two separate tables. Needless to say, with four to a body it meant pure unsolicited cutting the entire day. A rather undesirable consequence of thoracic dissection is the copious amounts of fluids that collect in the body cavity, which later slowly soaked into the arms of my lab coat.
But the highlight of the day had to be cutting around and removing the rib cage. Clean out, pleura a little torn and lungs lying dormant asking to be provocatively poked – the ultimate in stress relief is the peculiar bounce and return to form of the lungs recoil. Yes, it’s going to be an interesting week.