Monday, January 25, 2010

Is this real life?!

            That’s a direct quote from a girlfriend as she and I, along with 10 other girls, watched as a man in scrubs detached the heads and removed the brains of my Bubba (see below) and another cadaver we affectionately call Saggy Barbara…don’t ask.  That’s right folks, tonight was brain night in the anatomy lab.  The night started off like any other as my classmates and I made our way to the basement of Medical Tower North, giggling nervously to disguise the terror that we were actually feeling as we approached the dissection lab. 
When we arrived we were greeted by the man who would be doing the grunt work of removing the brains from the skulls for us.  This man, who was introduced to us as Jason, had a large beard, two pierced ears, and one of the most serious Southern drawls I have ever heard.  Not exactly what I pictured when Dr. Ohde described him as The Brain Expert.  Prior to the extraction of the brains, Dr. Ohde asked Jason to tell us a little bit about his background.  Maybe he should have first mentioned that some of us were a little squeamish and weren’t exactly thrilled to be talking about, much less working with, dead bodies.  Jason didn’t even begin to tiptoe around our apprehension as he described The Body Farm at the University of Tennessee where he received his education.
Apparently, The Body Farm in Knoxville, TN is a 40-acre property that is devoted to the study of body decomposition and is the primary training ground for FBI forensics.  Jason explained that not all individuals who donate their bodies to science are as lucky as my friend Bubba.  Some are thrown in rivers or trunks of cars (yes he actually said this) so that scientists can learn about the decomposition of the body.  And wanna know where they store these bodies before they bring them to The Body Farm?  Well, in a storage room located 30 feet below the turf of the UT football field of course!  Needless to say this was not exactly the way we wanted to start of the night.  Though I am certainly grateful that there are people who devote their lives to this type of work, I will never be one of them and don’t really have the burning desire to hang out with one of them either.
As for the actual dissection, I will spare you the details but basically it involved handsaws, hammers, and hair.  I spent the majority of his demonstration looking just beyond the cadaver itself and crossing my eyes – a trick I have perfected to make it look like I am watching intently while insuring that I am not “that girl” who has to wait in the hall until its over. 
At the end of the night I stood in the center of the room with my classmates as we passed around a real, human brain.  It was a pretty surreal experience to be holding something so incredibly intricate and sophisticated that not even the most advanced computers can rival its power.  Don’t get me wrong, it was completely disgusting and as brain juice dripped down onto my Chuck Taylors I was perfectly happy to pass it on to the person next to me.  But for that short moment I was holding a human brain in my hands and that was pretty awesome.

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