Thoughts in Anatomy

Peter T. Eisenhauer

Lewis Katz School of Medicine, Class of 2020

One day during anatomy, I was holding the hand and forearm of our cadaver, so that the arm was away from the body while my partners dissected the shoulder. The hand is different. Unlike the rest of the body, a dead hand feels very similar to the hand of a living person. As I stood there holding her hand, a rush of thoughts came over me. How many people before me had held this same hand? Did her grandchildren hold this hand on their way to the park? Did her husband hold this hand while she was dying? We are about to dissect this hand, after which it will no longer be a hand, but will only be tissue. Does this mean that I’ll be the last person to hold her hand? I notice my partners are cutting deeply into the arm in shoulder. It looks painful. I wonder if my hand holding is giving comfort to her. No – that’s silly. I snap out of it and think, “just forget about what you’re doing.”

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