Imagine, if you will, spending 2 days a week (and sometimes more) with someone for 7 months. What do you think you’d be able to learn in that amount of time?? Hopefully, if you got along well with said person, you might become good friends and/or you might learn some really impactful things from them. Now imagine that this person is actually a human cadaver who has donated their body so that you could learn from them……totally different right?? Maybe not as different as you might think.
Allow me to explain. In the 7 months spent in anatomy lab, our donors imparted invaluable knowledge upon us, just as you would expect would happen when getting to know a living, breathing human being. They taught us about life and death. They taught us about what makes up the portal triad of the liver. They taught us about the popliteal and cubital fossas. Perhaps most importantly, they taught us what a mind-bogglingly intricate and amazing machine we’ll be trying to fix and mend for the rest of our careers as physical therapists.
One thing you might argue is that the metaphor certainly must break down when you introduce the idea of friendship. Indeed, while friendship is a term that can’t fully be applied here, I for one felt a bond with my donor, a bond built from a sense of thankfulness and the same kind of bond that a student might feel with a teacher. In addition, friendships were certainly formed with my lab partners, and I credit this largely to our donor bringing us together to implement teamwork and strategy in ways that are completely unique to this experience.
At the end of our last day in lab, I had the sense that a great relationship was coming to an end. I think that the gift that our donors gave us is often underappreciated, and I found myself realizing that I had at times taken our donor for granted. However, as I reflect on the experience, I can say that I am incredibly thankful for this one of a kind experience, and I can definitively say that I will carry the lessons learned in the anatomy lab with me for the rest of my career. So here’s to our donor as we thank them for their wonderful gift.