An Anatomical Mystery Tour - Bogdana Kovshilovskaya, c/o 2013
10pm - Donor Runs Pager goes off
12am - Get into a black van in front of Moffitt Hospital
1-6am - Participate in an organ procurement surgery in Enloe Hospital - Chico
7am - Get back to San Francisco in time for class
..All in all, arguably the most amazing night of my life.
In the van on the way over I talked to the surgeons: a transplant fellow and a fourth year resident about their experiences, their exhaustion, their excitement and their emotions. I didn't know anything about the patient except that her BMI was the same as mine, and it scared me because I was afraid it would be a young woman like myself. I had an emotional experience earlier in the year where a patient my age was in the hospital and getting his history moved me to tears - I was afraid that I would have a similar reaction to a young woman that would be undergoing the surgery. Either I was able to distance myself, or that I was so excited to be in the surgical setting, or that she was thirty years my senior - or most likely the combination of the above, but I was able to maintain my composure and assist in the surgery, all the while being amazed at the human body.
The first thing that the fellow told me was that I was lucky, and that this would be a great surgery for me to watch. The patient had very little adipose tissue and all the organs and vessels were very visible. I had an anatomy lesson in the operating room, and I was amazed at just how different everything looked when it was mobile and not fixed. I remember being most amazed by the gallbladder, which looked nothing like it did in the cadavers in anatomy lab. The surgeons "pimped" me on the anatomy and I was very impressed with how much I was able to recall! They were very friendly and had a great working dynamic with one another and with me. The surgery itself took a little over two hours - they removed the kidneys for transplant and the lungs for research, and I was allowed to close up the body, under the watchful eye of the resident and fellow. It was a very moving experience for me, not to mention practically challenging to sew up a human body, and with some luck and a little bit of procedural memory I was able to get a nice running stitch from the lower abdomen to the umbilicus and one more from the umbilicus to the thoracic cavity. Closing up the body made me think about how much of who we are is concealed under the skin, and yet how little that defines us.
This woman donated her organs to save someone else, to improve someone else's condition, to leave a lasting mark on the world - those desires and that commitment were not in her liver that I was able to palpate, not in her gallbladder that startled me when I first saw it, and not in her heart that I held as it was fasciculating after being removed from the body - it wasn't her anatomy, it was her being, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to learn from this woman, even after she lost her ability to communicate that lesson.