Another person that I carry, as I wend my way through my nursing career, was in reality one of my first patients when I started back in nursing school after I hurt my shoulder and lost my scholarship, and had to leave the college. In my second nursing school, our anatomy lab, which I had to retake because there were no labs offered with my first class, we had a cadaver.
Not really a patient, but a person who had a lot of impact on me as a nurse.
We were only there to learn about the structures of the hand and forearm.
The cadaver, this wonderful person who had given their body to science, to research, so students like myself could learn had am immense and immediate impact on me and my classmates. The cadaver was nude, laid out on a slab in the recesses of the college. The room was dark except for the working lights. The room smelled like formalin. And there were two cadavers, laid out, ready for us.
The face was covered.
We donned gloves and bent our heads to our work.
The flesh was hard and cold and ungiving under our fingers.
We identified the structures as they were laid out for us.
But, I couldn’t help but scan the body, looking for signs of age or infirmity. Of what led to the cadaver death.
This cadaver was a female, of older years, as evidenced by the lack of subcutaneous tissue, of the crepey skin of the torso, of the white pubic hair.
There was evidence of a recent surgical intervention to the left hip. Staples were still intact over the unhealed incision. I imagined I saw surgical pen marks near the incision.
We were not told how or why the cadavers came to be cadavers.
But they contributed to our knowledge base as nursing students.
Now, years later, I can surmise that there was a fractured hip and a repair of the fractured hip and a death. Now, I know that the percentage of people who survive the first year after hip fracture is low. But she helped us learn, when she decided to leave her body to science.
And I am grateful to her.