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To all who know me, they know how I can’t stand anything that is gross and slimy, or possibly get me in any way, shape, or form dirty. (I can’t stand to be dirty at all!) When I go to the doctors, I can’t even stand to see the nurses poke my arm with a long, cold, sharp needle, so they can get a blood sample. I can’t even stand to watch the shows on the Discovery channel where they are operating on any part of the human body and there is blood oozing from the open flesh of a human being. I find it very hard to swallow when I even get a glimpse of it on television. This has always been my feeling ever since I was little, but when I entered high school and took a College Prep Biology course my feelings on things that are gross and slimy changed quite a bit.
In high school I took a Biology class as every high school student has to do. I felt a little smarter than some of the others, because I was not only taking Biology, but I was taking college prep Biology. The only drawback to the class was I was going to have to a lot of dissecting to do. Now, I know in Biology everyone had to dissect the traditional earthworms and frogs, which I can handle without any problems. The problem I encountered after I entered the Biology class was not the fact that I had to dissect worms and frogs, but I had to actually dissect a fetal pig.
I was not looking forward to this part of the class; I was even considering transferring into the normal, calm Biology class every one of my sane friends had done, but it was too late to turn back now. I vividly remember my teacher passing out the syllabus of his course and talking in a very excited manner about the dissecting of the fetal pig. “Now class, I know the tradition is to just dissect earthworms and frogs, which we will do, but I am anxious to get to the dissection of the fetal pig section of the class.
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As I looked at the schedule I decided on the day of the dissection I would simply be absent, so I wouldn’t have to participate in the massacre of the pig. I figured I could make up the work by doing some meaningless worksheet, or a paper with a really cool topic that the teacher would like. As I looked down to the point section of the syllabus my very clever plan was quickly unraveling when I read that attendance on that day was mandatory and there wouldn’t be any way to make up the grade for missing. I felt like I was just sentenced to a life in prison. I couldn’t believe I had to actually go through with this. I faced my sentence with the shame and fear of actually having to tamper with an already dead animal.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to get over my fear of having to look at something being hacked into. I think the truth of the matter is I was feeling sorry for the pigs that died to become the subject for our own amusement. When the time drew nearer for the dissection I asked Mr. Johnson why we were dissecting pigs in the first place. The answer to my question was something I never really thought of. Mr. Johnson told the entire class the reason why we were dissecting fetal pigs was because it is the closest thing to a human being. The feel of pig skin has the almost exact same feel as human skin does and since we couldn’t actually dissect a human he thought that the pigs were the next best thing. After all, this is Biology and some of you might want to become doctors. Mr. Johnson wanted to give us all a really great experience after all, so I thought I might as well give it a whirl. What did I have to lose!
The day of the dissection had finally come and the buzz was all around us. After making it through earthworms and frogs with my all male partners I was getting just as excited as they were. I finally realized why my partners chose me as a group member after being with them for almost the whole semester. I told them that they would have to do a lot more of the answering questions on the worksheet this time if they wanted any help from me. My group members were letting me pretty much do the worksheets, because they said I was the smartest out of all of them. This is coming from a group of juniors and I was only a sophomore. I call it complete laziness on their part, so I told them I would not do the work anymore without help from all of them. I told them I wanted to be as much a part of the dissection as the rest of them. I had finally understood the excitement my teacher gushed about at the beginning of the quarter. I was just as eager to discover as the next guy.
Standing around our work station with the materials we would need for this assignment all cleaned from the previous dissections of the frogs from two weeks ago. I was ready to jump right on in and play doctor for the day. The members of my group started acting weird as the pigs were being place on our trays. I found this behavior kind of odd, because during the other dissections they were making the earthworms and frogs dance, sing and tell awful jokes. As the pig was placed in front of us the guys backed away quickly as if the pig was going to somehow come back to life and attack them. I started to wonder if they were just pretending to act scared on my behalf, because they all knew how I felt about this section of class. When Mr. Johnson said “go ahead and begin” my group members didn’t even fight over who got to make the first cut. I was stunned beyond belief, because nobody but me wanted to begin dissecting the pig. In unison they told me to go ahead and we will do the worksheet. I was dumbfounded; I couldn’t believe these strong guys didn’t want anything to do with the pig. So there I was, left alone to tackle the beast all by myself without their help.
There I was standing with my group silently behind me in from of a dead pig. I picked up the scalpel and slowly made my first incision. I followed the diagram that was given to us by Mr. Johnson. I slowly made the cut from the pig’s neck all the way down to his belly. I carefully folded back the skin just as we did with the earthworms and frogs. I was starting to get more excited to explore everything inside of the pig. I became the doctor and my group members had become my nurses. I began to bark out orders to them “scalpel, scissors, tweezers” and just like in real life they handed me everything I asked for. I had a great time looking and showing the heart, liver, and kidneys to my squirmy group members. They would nod their heads and quickly look away to fill out the worksheet. For this moment in time I felt how it would be to be an actual doctor. To actually be able to look at a heart regardless if it is an animal or human’s heart was incredible. For the first time I was actually able to work without being disgusted and scared about the blood and fluids that came out.
Our group was the first to finish with the required part of the assignment, so I asked Mr. Johnson if it was ok to look at the brain. Mr. Johnson was excited by this question and said “yes go right ahead”! So there I was eagerly trying to saw my way to the brain of my already mutilated pig. I hate to report that I wasn’t able to get to the brain before class was over. The skull of the pig was just too tough to saw through, so I wasn’t able to see the brain. I was quite bummed about it, but my group members were not. They were actually relieved when Mr. Johnson said we had 10 minutes left of class, so start cleaning up. With a sad expression I began to help my partners to clean up my mess. My partners were actually impressed with my enthusiasm of dissecting the pig. I was also impressed with myself on how I got over my fear of blood and guts.
Till this day I sometimes still have problems when it comes to blood, slime and watching people being cut open on the discovery channel. What helps me through is thinking back to my Biology class and then I calm down long enough to watch an open heart surgery (for 5 seconds). I still don’t like to be dirty, but I don’t mind as much, because of my son. Anytime I freak out about the disgusting stuff in our world I think back to that one day in Biology class when I was the doctor for that 1 hour and 45 minutes.