To the dead bodies in the refrigerator, thank you


Derby Roan

Along with cadavers used in anatomy classes, models are used to teach students the structures of the human body.

Derby Roan, Copy Editor

I want to be a medical examiner. That’s something I’ve known about myself for the past few years. That’s why I signed up for an anatomy class last semester. That’s why I wanted so badly to work with the cadavers. That’s also why I was terrified to go into the cadaver room.
I’d read horror stories of students who felt comfortable and confident about the idea of learning from a cadaver, but freaked out when they saw it. I’d read about people saying that it was completely different than they expected, and that it was unnerving. That’s what scared me. If I couldn’t get comfortable with dead bodies, I’d have to figure out a new career path.
The first day my instructor took us into the cadaver room, my mind was blank. The last thing I wanted to do was jinx myself, so I tried not to think about anything at all as I took it in. It was cold in that room, and smelled like you’d expect chemical preservatives to smell. After looking at her long enough to calm myself, I realized part of my brain was playing the phrase “don’t pass out” on repeat, though I don’t think I was at risk to pass out at any point. I laughed at myself and calmed down even more. When I was thinking logically again, my first thought was, “Wow. You’re seriously beautiful.”
That was when I realized I’d completely psyched myself out. I was so focused on how beautiful and intricate the human body is that any morbidity was gone. There was no fear of passing out, no surprises. Of course, it can’t be ignored that this woman had to die before we could study her body. That is sad. I will not deny it. But in the moment, I was fascinated and more in love with the human body than I ever have been.
Later, when I was home, my mind found its way back to the cadaver. But, I wasn’t thinking of her as a cadaver. I was thinking of her as a person, and how grateful I was for her life and for her choice to entrust her body to an institution to teach the kids that would make up the future of the medical field.
Before I fell asleep, I found myself praying for her loved ones, that they would have peace and know that her donation was having an impact, at least on me. I also prayed for my fellow students, that they would make the most of their cadaver experience. Finally, I prayed a prayer of gratitude that I’d even had the opportunity to learn from a real body, and to have the certainty that I can at least handle this part of my future career.
When my class looked at the second cadaver, I felt the same rush of love for science and gratitude for the anonymous woman on the table. I hope I keep that feeling as long as I live.
So, to the dead bodies in the refrigerator, thank you. Thank you so very much.

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