Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You can make soup out of anything (really, you can)

Warning: graphic post to follow.

My independent study rotation this week is a cadaver lab at the end of which I will have some preserved bone specimens to keep for my future educational and client needs.

Bones, right? Sounds fun. And not too messy.

Well, yeah, as long as somebody else gets the bones out of the dog for you.

Which was what had happened when we showed up yesterday morning for the first day of our rotation (there are 7 of us this week, 2 others besides me working on small animal skeletons). The instructor had graciously boiled a batch of canine hindlimbs for us on Friday night, hydrogen peroxide-d them on Saturday night, and left them out to dry on Sunday night so they would be all clean and white for us on Monday morning.

Good deal.

Except the instructor has been extra busy with a lot of other things going on. So last night he made some cat & dog soup for us (no joke, we are talking mesh laundry sacks full of dog and cat bits [skin, muscles, tendons, bones, eyeballs, and all] in a commercial soup cooker), and we got to clean the flesh off this morning.

OK, I knew this would be our first task of the day, so I arrived garbed in coveralls, overboots, and dissection smock.

I was also fully prepared to encounter an aroma similar to that referenced in a previous post during small animal surgical anatomy.

However, I was alarmed, and perhaps even more disgusted, to find that our bone soup looked and (especially) smelled almost exactly like pot roast.

(Note to self: I will not be eating pot roast any time soon.)

Now, that's not quite true. Yes, it definitely smelled like pot roast. (One of the worst feelings I've ever had in vet school is getting hungry during an anatomy lab.)

But from the outside it didn't really look like pot roast. The heads looked like, well, a dog head that had been dunked in a pot of water. Didn't look that different from a sleeping dog with a wet head (well, and decapitated, of course).

Until you try to pull the heads out of the mesh laundry bags (4 heads per bag). And the skin and muscles fall off in your fingers. And you just keep grabbing at things till you get through all the musculature and finally reach bone. And then you get the big part of the skull out, but you still have to fish around in the melting pile of flesh for the two mandibles and two cervical vertebrae.

And then you try not to throw up, and wish you hadn't eaten breakfast.

Once you get the bones out, it's not that bad. Yes, it still smells horrible (or horribly delicious, however you prefer to see it). But you just wash off the bones in a nearby sink to remove any tenacious bits of flesh.

But then there's the skull. And what does the skull have inside? The brain.

For any aspiring veterinarians out there, let me share with you a valuable life lesson I learned today -- something I will never forget for the rest of my career:

When using a high-pressure water sprayer to flush a cat's brain out the back of its skull, keep your mouth closed.

Another important lesson I learned in small animal surgical anatomy, and thankfully retained through this point is: double-glove. Then your hands will smell like death for merely 24 hours or (with some luck) less.

On a brighter note, I can use power tools! What we started yesterday and finished this morning was wiring together all the bones of the canine hindlimb: ilia, ischium, pubis, sacrum, 3-4 lumbar vertebrae, all of the tail vertebrae, femur, tibia, patella, fibula, fabella, tarsal bones, metatarsals, phalanges, and sesamoids.

Which requires drilling holes into the bones so you can pass wire.

Which means that, yes, *I* used a power drill. And I didn't even hurt myself (much)! Nor did I crack or shatter any of the bones in my dog's skeleton (unlike the 2 guys I was working with).

My dog leg is pretty much done, just needs to sit overnight so the glue on the sesamoids can dry, then it will be coming home to live in the attic (away from the cats) until such time as I can use it to teach my clients things.

Well, that's about as positive as I can be about this week's lab. At least it's all uphill from here, i.e. we have our bones in H2O2 for the day, they'll dry overnight, and then we'll be back to nice clean bony specimens for the rest of the week. No more face full of flesh-filled water spray!

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