Saturday, February 1, 2014

Wet Lab

Nobody warned me not to eat anything beforehand. I was never in any danger of vomiting or the like, I’ve got too strong a stomach for that. But the lingering flavor of shortbread cookies on my palate mingled with the scent of formaldehyde in such a distinct and unpleasant way that I am fairly certain I won’t be eating shortbread cookies again anytime soon.

I walked into my first anatomy lab excited and a little intimidated. An assortment of displays were set up around the perimeter of the room, and I had twenty minutes to get my fill of them. I started off with the sagittal cross sections of preserved cow and sheep heads, with plasticized brains showing the structure of all the blood vessels. I picked up a frontal cross section showing the inside of a cow’s sinus cavity, and my own sinuses briefly stung and my eyes watered from a whiff of preservative fumes that reached my nose. The juices ran down my gloves and for the rest of the lab I walked around with my hands poised in front of me like a stubby-armed dinosaur.

I marveled at the size of the horse heart, it was as large as my head (and for a horse only fifteen hands high)! I’d had no idea. I chuckled immaturely when I came to the reproduction table, where an assistant explained to me the two different kinds of animal penises and how they worked. The assistant by the reconstructed animal skeletons quizzed me on my bone names, and I was impressed with how much I remembered from my physiology class two semesters ago. Compelled by curiosity, I touched and handled as many things as I could, the cow lungs, the horse hooves, and numerous other disembodied parts. An entire preserved calf hung on chains, with a slit cut in its side so one could stick their hand in to feel the placement of the organs. I wanted to do this as well, but there was a line and I would not have gotten a turn in time.

When the time came to leave, I found myself once again with renewed excitement for a possible future in veterinary medicine. I wondered if I’d ever get used to the smell of formaldehyde, and I when my next opportunity would be for a learning experience such as this one.

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