I couldn’t understand.
How could I understand?
I couldn’t let myself understand…
For fear that if I let myself understand, paralysis would ensue.
According to Newton’s 1st Law of Motion I would be doomed if I stopped.
I’d already started and was the first in the group each day to grab a scalpel and pull down the gauze.
When teammates hesitated to chip away the frontal bone, I was the first to offer to perform the task.
But despite being first to initiate dissections on our donor, I also felt it my duty to protect him. I always maintained contact with a part of him, placing the palm of my hand usually on his arm or his abdomen. And yet, now I realize that keeping constant contact with the chilled and moist muscles beneath my double-gloved hand wasn’t protection for our donor at all, but for myself. It was a selfish act, a strange way to keep myself grounded. If I could keep my hands involved, then just maybe I could tether my mind to the current task and not allow it to rise up and reflect.
Now I realize my error and cowardice.
I took the easy way out.
Yes, it would have been more difficult to regain inertia if I paused to contemplate my actions
But maybe I would have taken a greater appreciation of the humanity of the situation.
For that, I admire my teammates who took the time to hesitate.
They are braver than I ever was.
This writing is a response to the piece “Gross Anatomy” by writer, poet, and medical student Hannah Erlbacher. Importantly, Hannah and I started our close friendship in the anatomy lab. This piece is dedicated to her, one of my dearest friends and inspirations. “
About the Author
Lola Lozano is a first year MSTP student dedicated to integrating the arts and humanities with science and medicine.