First the morgue…then the zoo

This is getting bad. I was writing this post to address my problem with procrastination when it comes to the subject of writing, but I have successfully put it off for another week. I’ll try this again – see below for what I wanted to say last week:

I should be writing non-stop over summer, considering the abundance of free time and variety of subjects to talk about, but it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve been baking, gardening, driving, DNA sequencing, data collating, dissecting, and gaming, but not writing. And I still have more to do – my thesis is due mid-September, but ideally it’ll be submitted well before that. I’m starting back into medicine at the end of August, so I need to make the most of the time I have now. After almost a year, I’ve finally finished lab work and I’m currently in the midst of data analysis. Data storage and handling is the real bottleneck in next-generation sequencing, and can take a hell of a lot of time, particularly since I’m dealing with a large number of samples. Being bothered to put in that time is another matter entirely.

Now for something completely different. A lot has happened recently, including Monty Python Live (Mostly), a trip to the zoo, and a morning with the forensic pathology team. We saw a live stream of Monty Python Live  in a rather warm Odeon cinema in Victoria Square, resulting from broken air conditioning (which fortuitously netted us free apology tickets). I’ve never been a die hard Python fan, in all honesty. I liked the Life of Brian when I saw it years and years ago, and the Holy Grail, but many of the classic sketches passed me by. Sarah has been getting me into it though, and there are some really great ones, including the Dead Parrot sketch.

A typical mortuary

A typical mortuary

Speaking of dead things, I spent an interesting morning in the mortuary. A rather smooth transition there, if I do say so myself. It’s an unusual experience to say the least, and I don’t know what I was expecting – perhaps more warning, or a sign of some description – but I stepped straight out of the changing rooms and into the middle of things. Surreal doesn’t quite describe it. Seeing the bodies that once belonged to ordinary people, lying lifeless on stainless steel tables, ready for post-mortem. I suppose it wasn’t as dramatic a sight for me, as I had dissected cadavers in anatomy class in previous years. It was the smell that really got to me. One person had a perforated bowel, resulting in peritonitis, which is inflammation of the lining of the abdominal cavity, and with it came an overwhelming stench. The first reaction is always to go out and get some fresh air, but the technicians assured me that returning from fresh air only makes it worse. I was able to assist with part of the post-mortem, taking sections from a number of different organs including the lungs, kidneys, spleen, liver, and brain. The pathologists had an astounding level of anatomy knowledge, and were keen to teach and talk through everything they were doing, making it a useful learning experience too. But it’s not for everyone. I would strongly encourage anyone in the medical field to go and see at least one post-mortem.

That’s about all I can muster for the time being, and I didn’t even make it to the part about the zoo. That will have to wait until another day…perhaps even tomorrow.

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