Vessels of the Human Brain
Histology is so incredibly fascinating!! I’m taking this as an online class, and looking at tissues on a virtual microscope might not seem as great, but it is still so mind blowing. Here is a microscopic image showing the human lung. Notice the alveoli. How awesome and beautiful is that?! The complexity of every cell and tissue and organ that makes up the human body is unbelievable and it strengthens my belief in an amazing, intelligent, and artistic Creator.
That is all.
Today in gross lab we cut through the ribs and sternum to access the thoracic cavity and to get the lungs; the next couple of labs we will be dealing with the heart and associated structures.
That seems so textbook when I write it. Contained in that sentence are many strange feelings, the whole lab was almost a blur.
We ‘unwrapped’ what had been dissected in the previous lab: the skin, the huge gingko-leaf-like pectoralis major muscle and the little triangle-shaped pectoralis minor muscle, the weirdly hand-like digitations of the thin and silvery serratus anterior; muscles are different from organs. We waited with mounting anticipation for our table’s turn with the bone saw (supervised, of course).
And then it got there, yellow snaking extension cord, she handed it to me, our eyes met and she knew what I felt. The bone saw looked kind of like a kitchen utensil. Heavy in my hands, I was scared to cut the lung while cutting through the ribs- weirdly gratifying when they gave and I knew I had cut all the way through. Bone chips and slivers on grey abdominal skin. I passed it to the person on my right. “Here, you should do this, you’re interested in surgery, right?” He would make a great surgeon.
Then we pulled off the square/butterfly shape of sternum and ribs, I held it steady as my table-mates cleared away fascia to clearly see the transversus thoracis muscles. It felt like a wounded bird in my hands for some reason, delicate.
We saw the lungs, spongy purple with black tiger stripes from (what I suppose) to be years of smoking. The differences between the left and right lung, the fat covering the heart between them. I waited nervously, what if they moved.
The lungs were removed with a scalpel. Handed to me, a strange birth. They were heavy in my hands, but lighter than I expected. Breath of life once filled them, once propelled oxygen into tissues and cells, once removed carbon dioxide. Give and take with the trees- they need our respiratory waste, we need their respiratory waste.
How long could he hold his breath? What about holding the note of a song, driving in the summer with the windows down and his arm around his beloved?
Look at other lungs. One had cancer, many were tiny, some were quite pink, others were blacker than ours. All of them lifebreath-givers. In my hands.
Put the lungs back in the chest, they settle down into the base of the thoracic cage now that they are free of their connections to the heart and pleura. Good night, sweet first years, you’re welcome. Put the rib and sternum section back, put the muscles and skin back. Wrapping up a present. Spritz with moisture spray, cheesecloth, plastic. Good night, sweet first years, you’re welcome. Close up the table. Wipe it down, no rude fingerprint traces here. Spotless shining stainless steel knowledge casket.
I floated home, my head other places. Lungs behind the wheel of every car around me. Lungs inside of me. As I laid down for a quick nap I inhaled deeply. Gleeful air rushing down into the tiniest alveoli. Did my lungs fill up the recesses around them? Exhale.
As I fell asleep I could feel my lungs. In my chest. Maybe someday far in the future someone will hold them in their hands- I can’t hold my breath for very long.
This is so incredibly beautiful. Thank you for writing this! :)
I keep having horrible dreams about awful MCAT scores and mistakes in my application that was already submitted…… ehhhhhh go away bad dreams!
This is an except I took from an article by Dr. Katharine Treadway. This is pretty much the type of doctor I want to be. The type of doctor that I will strive to be. Studies have shown that medical students become less compassionate towards the end of medical school; I do not want to…