Thursday, July 1, 2010

Meeting the Cadavers

Today was the first time I saw the cadavers up close. I was hoping that I would feel some strong emotion of some sort, but I really didn't feel anything. There was a girl next to me who started crying but then composed herself, and a guy standing near the back looked really pale. The cadaver didn't really look like a person to me, although one of the cadavers still had his mustache on. The left the skin on the upper lip and around the fingers. It was pretty gross looking. However I think I am more worried about memorizing the names of the muscles in the forearm than being creeped out by a dead body .

My professor told us about the history of the cadavers. The person who wants to donate their body to science has to get in contact with the University of Utah while they are still living and put their express desire to donate their body in their will. Once they are dead, the family still has to give permission for the body to be donated. They can veto what was written in the will. The University of Utah then ships the bodies to different universities in this western United States region. After two years of students studying and poking around in their bodies, everything is cremated and returned to the family.

Every year on the Friday before Memorial Day, a service is held at the Salt Lake Cemetery in honor of those individuals who donated their bodies to science. At that service, the family members of those people who donated their bodies speak about the lives and accomplishments of those individuals. My professor goes to these services each year and she said it is one of the most spiritual experiences she has. She can actually recognize some of the family members from studying the facial muscles of the cadavers for so long. One of the cadavers was a stay-at-home mom of 12 kids. Another one was a carpenter. One was a 97 year-old grandma (her muscles are very tiny). One was a huge, muscular black man (his muscles are really easy to differentiate). I guess I was a little surprised to see that normal, everyday people donate their bodies. I thought that only scientists would want to do that. 


Kathy Haynie said...

Bryan, this is very intriguing. Thank you for sharing more about where cadavers come from. It's kind of neat to think that a body could go on being useful for 2 more years after the person has died. Good luck with memorizing all the muscles!

David Mayer said...

I appreciate this post. When I worked as a CNA I saw a fair share of dead bodies, and even watched a couple of residents die.

It was really amazing to me to see how quickly and completely a person's countenance changes when their spirit leaves their body. I was never really disturbed cleaning and caring for the bodies of residents who had passed away because it wasn't really Mr. or Mrs. Smith in front of me, it was just the body.

If anything, this strengthened my testimony that they were now someplace else, and that the intelligence that they possessed in this life continued on.

Thank you for the thoughtful post, Bryan.

Lisa Lou said...

Huh. I don't know how I would react. I don't think I would cry, but I might pass out. Or get really dizzy and have to sit down. Once that passed, I think it would be really fascinating to see all the inner workings of the body.