Mark David Carey
Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Class of 2020
They quickly decide to name me. While I appreciate that they care to at least make an effort to humanize me, I find it slightly awkward, what with me being a corpse and what have you. Their name isn’t even close to my actual name, but I suppose that if I could adjust to a new home inside my white, plastic residence, then I can also accept a new name.
I quickly realize I have to temper my expectations upon my first encounter with the students. I nearly have my wrong side dissected the first day. I also lose one of my phrenic nerves almost immediately. At least I have another I suppose. Skilled surgeons they are not.
The fat which took me decades to accumulate is merely discarded or treated with disdain as they move through me, hunting for my more “valuable” features. At times I wish to apologize for obstructing what they wish to see or for resisting their efforts to flip me over. When dissecting my arms, they are surprised at how well developed my muscles are. They attribute this to the only thing they know about me other than my age and death: my occupation as a mailman. I can’t help but feel a bit of pride for representing my profession well and for providing structures which they finally seem to hold in high regard. My pitch black lungs and rock hard liver appear to be sources of amusement and wonder for my new caretakers, as well as any visitors who stop by. They remind everyone that I was 92 when I passed, a fact that surprises most who care to inspect me. These prospective students appear to be an optimistic bunch, jumping to the assumption that my damaged organs were indicative of a life that was full of jolly times and lived to the fullest, rather than one of torment, despair, and frustration.
As we all begin to learn more about one another, the students become more relaxed with me. At times a comment of grim humor or a careless movement of my limbs gets under my skin, but overall these affronts are limited and they maintain the level of respect they first demonstrated to me. There are good days and bad days for us all. At times, the students spend most of their lab session simply digging through my fat to try and find an objective. At other times I wish to scream to them that the vessel or nerve of interest is right there… and then it’s gone. A careless cut with the scissors or tug of the forceps shreds my precious fibers. They’ll have to go look at that bastard two tables over.
As the end draws near for our time together, I find it harder and harder to keep myself together, namely because they have severed one of my legs and cut my head in half. I more closely resemble a Dali painting than someone who could once deliver an envelope and cuss at a yappy mutt. They are instructed to take a piece of my heart for further analysis and I hope that it serves them well. It amuses me how they seem to enjoy showing off my more well-dissected features. They readily adapt to casually discussing multi-syllable terminology. I can follow along with some of it, depending on whether or not they discussed and defined it in my presence. At other times I am simply lost and confused by their discussions and phrasings. I wish to beseech them not to talk in front of patients in such ways when they one day care for the living.
Finally our stressful, reflective, and outright bizarre times come to an end. On the last day, hundreds of students crowd by me, desperately staring into my cavities, trying to determine what part of me their professors have decided to stick a pin into. I see the familiar faces of those who have greeted me each morning for the past eight weeks one final time. I like to think that I provided a calming presence for them in their stressful moment, two familiar halves of a face looking back at them like an old colleague of sorts. At last, I am zipped up one final time. I am proud to have provided help to those who also aspire to help strangers one day.
*Mr. Rogers Sr is the name Mark and his team created for their cadaver, since the donors remain anonymous