Facing Forward

IMG_8136The ghostly shape of a head loomed in front of us, wrapped in a white shroud. A nose was vaguely recognizable.

Two of my tank mates were conspicuously absent today. In fact, looking around the room about 1/2 the class was missing. 

Pansies. It is only a face.

We looked at each other and sighed.

He shrugged.

I broke the silence. “It’s now or never, I guess.” He nodded.

“If you lift his head I can get the gauze off,” he offered.

I grabbed the fellow’s head and lifted it off the shiny metal surface. This was more challenging than one might think because the body was as stiff as a wooden plank and the head was as heavy as a block of concrete.

My partner started unwinding the gauze. It went on and on and on, gathering into a fluffy white cloud on the remains of the previously dissected chest.

Eventually smudges and discolorations started showing through the layers where body fluids had soaked through.

“Look, you are going to have to hurry. I can’t keep this up much longer!” My voice sounded panicky because my arms were shaking like rubber bands.

“Just a second! Almost… done!”

I shifted my fingers to let him unwind the last bit of guaze. Suddenly, the head slipped through my hands and hit the metal slab with a sickening thud. 

It bounced. 

Bounced? How could even that be possible?

I cringed. 

Oh, God. What have I done? Did I break anything?

Blank eyes were staring back at me through opacified corneas. 

At least he didn’t look mad.

I took a step back. A hint of five o’clock shadow played on his chin. The hair had been shaved off of his scalp, a 1/4 inch of gray stubble was all that remained.

He looked like my father.


76 thoughts on “Facing Forward

  1. Wow! These have been some powerful posts.

    It is indeed hared to get the bouncing head out of my mind in the few minutes since I read it. Another thing that’s hard to get out of my mind is the surgeon’s description of what happened to my wife’s left eye a few months ago in an accident. He said, “imagine squeezing a grape until it pops.” No eating grapes anymore. (The good news is that, despite him originally saying that she’d never have sight from this eye, there might be hope for partial vision, he’s doing surgery on the 3rd)

    Just a little more Halloween sort of stuff…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The face is always hard – but our students were not allowed a pass with that dissection. Once the dissection started, they actually got into it. It’s a fascinating dissection, occasionally tough with very thin muscles of facial expression. I loved to watch my new baby son’s facial muscles contract in an uncoordinated manner and identify them. You can obviously gather how much I love teaching anatomy!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh gosh, it’s kind of funny and horrible all at the same time. One of my best friends is a GP in Scotland. When she was studying she was lent a real skeleton. The head sat on her dressing table and was often wearing jewelry. There was no disrespect, just a way of getting used to being around dead bodies.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It can happen I guess. What a shock it must have been.
    Sorry about that. But when you signed into Med school you knew it was no stroll in the forest, right?


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