Remembering my Cadaver

Human anatomy laboratory, UoN. Photo credits: Internet

Table 9 is directly in front of you when you enter the Human Anatomy Lab. One table, then table 9. I loved table 9 because I could easily peep when Prof Saidi (Rest in power) was coming, Saidi, or Dr. Beda. Table 9 also gave you another advantage; you got access to fresh air from the wide door and the air conditioner behind us. You needed the fresh air because you could easily choke under the heavy stench of formalin, a substance used to preserve dead bodies for us geeks to cut. Typically, formalin is pumped into the femoral artery, midway between where the torso gives way to the thighs. Then on the neck of the cadaver, you would find another cut with a hurried stitch on it; another route for formalin infusion. I guess you need copious amounts of the chemical to preserve the brain.

We were in group B, so we dissected on Wednesdays and Thursdays. People from group A thought they were God’s lastborns because they dissected on Mondays and Tuesdays with kina orthopedic and neurosurgery residents. And these residents took them for lunch; they had money, good cars, and big dreams of becoming surgeons. I remember once reading a golden name tag ‘Dr. Dave Mangar, Neurosurgery. ‘ Oh, how I admired that chap.

Even dental guys dissected with group A people. And folks, dental guys brag like hell. You would think those people breathe the ozone layer. Kwanza, if you go to their school, opposite Nairobi Hospital, you see some beautiful petite brunette babes in blue scrubs wiggling around. You know those babes that you don’t want to open your mouth in front of because you fear they might find the smell of your breath repulsive? Those are the babes you meet in dental school. For this reason, my dental problems are sorted by Dr. Naph Macharia, a fantastic dentist we went to school with. He now pokes teeth at VIP Dental Suite, Allamano Center, off Waiyaki Way. If you go there, pass my regards, tell him you know The Doctor On Call.

On Wednesdays, the dissection would begin at eleven, after Prof Nguu’s class of orbitals and Schrodinger. That is the most complex content I have ever had to master in the last decade. Nguu’s orbitals. We would begin our dissection by carrying our cadaver, lifting it on top of the table, and then removing the one on top and putting it down. The one on top was for group A. When you forgot and started dissecting their body, you would find it a little strange. You would feel that that is not your cadaver because you never forget your cadaver when you are in your first year. Our cadaver had a characteristic look that I couldn’t easily forget. His face dried on one side and his neck was stiff and inclined to the right. Probably the person who embalmed him didn’t care to return him to a neutral position. He had a dent on his forehead with a blue nylon stitch. His eyeballs sunk defiantly in their sockets, and his eyelids were half-mast. We named him Eugene. Me and Priyanka, now Dr. Priyanka. He was not as big as the corpse of table 13, who must have been a bodybuilder back then in life. You never missed a muscle on that man. Talk of a rare variation, he had it.

I was the chief dissector at our table. Sometimes I did separate the muscles nicely, but sometimes I inadvertently chopped them without any clear discernment. Mungai’s dissector is sometimes not so easy to follow, you know. It will give you instructions for going to Kisumu, and you would turn the other way and go to Muranga, then call Muranga Kisumu. Whenever muscles are separated nicely, like Innocent did when dissecting the leg, the human body becomes a work of art, a masterpiece. Check Gunther Von Hagen’s body worlds on YouTube if you think I am lying.

There was a guy in group B whose name eludes me. He was so artistic with his dissection that he defined the femoral triangle so well that us mortals were called to marvel at it. The arteries, veins, and nerves, perfectly outlined. I don’t know what became of the guy, and I never saw him again after the first year.

The late Prof Saidi would come a few minutes past five when the Chiromo clouds had started gathering above us and darkness slowly setting. He came adorned in a well-pressed designer suit and a well-fitting tie. Mostly a red tie. His relaxed demeanor was befitting of a proper professor. His hands were enormous, and I particularly loved how he moved them when he pointed at a structure.

“What is this?” He would ask.

“The superior colliculi, ” one of us would retort.

“And this?”

“The anterior perforating substance, “I would answer, feeling a little clever.

Then he said “Good!” and moved to the following table. He always ensured that he said ‘good’ in a way that made you feel you know anatomy. Oh, how he loved evolutionary anatomy, a subject that he preserved for Wambua, now Dr. Wambua. Wambua taught us with unparalleled enthusiasm, but he mostly talked about the hard things. You know a man is not entirely normal if he can have a ten-minute conversation about the periaqueductal grey. He now has a youtube channel where he teaches people human anatomy.

Dr. Beda would come slightly after Prof. He would tell us how we did not do so well in the Marathon CAT. We didn’t do well, yes, but Koki did well. Dr. Koki, by far, is the most brilliant human being alive after Elon Musk. That girl knew anatomy like the back of her hands. Who gets a 90 in anatomy? Collo and I were mostly in the 60s, on a bad day 54, and we were comfortable there. If we aimed any higher, we probably would have given up our long daily walks to Klabu, seducing Main Campus girls. Collo, an aspiring eye surgeon, now works as a doctor in Kisumu.

I would leave table 9 shortly before 8pm. Priyanka and Mursal would be the last to leave, and then they would ensure our Eugene is well covered with plastic wrapping to prevent him from drying up. That is when I would call back my mother on my way to Klabu.

We pray that the UoN post-graduate fees remain affordable because the ground is unsettling for us young doctors, stable jobs are hard to come by, governors are giving lousy contracts, locums are becoming fewer. I yearn to go back to table 9, Dr. Kiaye Oliver, Ear Nose, and Throat Surgery. Yes, ENT. Deal with it.


Author: Dr. Kiaye Oliver

I am a dreamer. I love medicine. She is generous. I am also in love with literature, she makes me see the world the way I want to and sometimes the way it is.

13 thoughts on “Remembering my Cadaver”

  1. Woow this is a great piece. Brings nostalgic memories of Chiromo the land of sugar and honey. Keep it up Kiaye.

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