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The First Cut

“The arrangement of the body is so well proportioned, the symmetry of its parts so beautiful that it can be doubted whether at its creation utility was more of a determining factor than beauty.”
Aurelius Augustinus (354-450 AD)

It was during my first anatomy practical that I saw a cadaver staring at me. I tried to answer which lymph node was beneath the pin in the man’s neck, but all I could focus on was the eyes rolled back in his head. I had worked on cadavers before, but none seemed to stare back at me as this one; and during an exam. I had just returned to class after a week of traveling back home for my grandpa’s funeral. Life and death now came with a new reality, a new respect, and a great responsibility.

When I raised the scalpel for the first time to the back of my cadaver’s head excitement and terror flowed down to the scalpel in my hand. What would it feel like? How would it sound? How deep do I cut? Would blood or fluid flow? I had no idea what to expect, yet my group looked to me to make the first cut. As I placed the scalpel through her hair I was filled with deep respect for this woman who had given her body so that I might be able to save another. As I made the first cut through her body, I knew this is what I was and am called to do. Each time I discover another branch of an artery, a nerve innervating a muscle, or view the effects of scoliosis, I am in awe at the intricacy of human life. There have been, and will continue to be, many late nights spent alone in the anatomy lab. It is quiet here. There are no professors, no students, and no children or husbands. I am content: content to learn, content to discover, content to question.


ila's picture


Thank you for that brave and poetic piece of writing. When did you know that you would be drawn to the work you are doing? Since childhood? Did something happen that inspired you? Please tell us more.

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