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Finals week is February 13-19. This post is preliminary; I'll edit it when I know more.

Electro: Final Monday (45% of grade, comprehensive), practical Monday or Tuesday (pass fail).

Cardiopulmonary: Final Wednesday (25% of grade), lab skills checkoff (pass fail)

Orthotics and prosthetics: Final Friday, Uh.... don't remember % of grade, cumulative. Pass fail practical.

Exercise Physiology: Final... uh..... Thursday? (She hasn't said anything yet). Cumulative with an emphasis on the final four weeks of material. No practical.
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Ladies and gentlemen, check your local doppler radar. Suggest you carry appropriate protective gear-- an invasion of flying swine is imminent.


I took the online electrophysiology quiz I was dreading. 17 of the questions could be graded by the computer, and four must be graded by a human (e.g. results available later). Of the computer-gradeable questions, I missed exactly one. That's right, I actually did fine on an electro quiz for once. Yowza.

The clear, obvious answer here is that we're about to be invaded by an entire air corps worth of flapping porkers. Look out!
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Okay, I have a stupid question.

We did the rockport walk test, which predicts your VO2 max. (Walk for one mile as fast as you can. Time how long it takes you. Get your heart rate immediately after you stop.)

Plug your numbers into the formula and obtain your VO2 max from that. Note that, for high-level athletes, the test is not difficult enough to predict VO2 max accurately.

The study buddy (a former semipro surfer, current core strength and balance enthusiast, sum total of aerobic activity-- riding bike 10min to class and 10min home and walking dog): Does the walk in 12 minutes. Comes out with a VO2 max between "excellent" and "olympic athlete".

Me (ride bike 60-90 minutes/day on weekdays, up to 4hrs/day on weekends, known to ride bike across Iowa for entertainment): Me, I score "high" which is below "excellent". That's actually an improvement; when I was in full-on serious triathlete mode, I scored "good".

The categories are: poor...fair....good....high...excellent...olympic athlete.

What? Why the heck is that???

As fallout.... Last year, I gave my study buddy my old red steel mountain bike. He rides it around. I am trying to interest him in MTB racing at Tsali in April. If my suspicions are correct, he'll show up on his old heavy steel bike, in sneakers and a T-shirt and toe clips, with minimal training and promptly dust everyone else in the beginner guy category.
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All riiiight..... I never liked MS project. In fact, it drives me bonkers. For my own planning, I use a sheet of printer paper, divided into columns for days, with efforts listed thusly.

The object: Get through the next week in an efficient fashion, maximizing grades (I want A's, like last time), minimizing stress, and hitting all planned workouts.

The stone bitches lurking in my week: Electro demo Tuesday, O&P test on Friday, online electro quiz due Saturday.

Gentle readers, I am being obsessive, monofocused, and boring, and there is a good chance this is thoroughly interesting to no one but me, and those directly and biologically responsible for my existence. (Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad.) Feel free to skip like a schoolgirl if that's not you.

SUNDAY (that was yesterday)
Planned: Ride 2:30, buy groceries, review electro demonstration twice, review electrophysiology for an hour, read article to present and formulate discussion questions about it, review orthotics and prosthetics material (BIG), review exercise physiology and answer review questions.

Actual: Did more O&P than planned. Answered 1/4th of physiology review questions. Did everything else except reading the article and reviewing the electro.

MONDAY (Day off school)
Ride 1:30, weights :30, Review electro demonstration until I know it cold(:15 every few hours), call property manager(15min), do therapeutic exercises(15min), review electrotherapeutics, review orthotics/prosthetics including lab time, answer at least one chapter's worth of physiology review Q's, call Cal State Sac professor for independent learning project.

TUESDAY (bear in mind I also have class Tuesday) Do electro demo, ride :60 and wts :30, review article to present :60, attend electro quiz review, study electro :60, review article to present, study O&P and physiology. (Answer at least one chapter's worth of physiology review Q's.

WEDNESDAY: Ride 1:30, Wts :30, present article at lunchtime, attend O&P review from 6-8 PM, study physiology, study electro 1hr, study O&P in any leftover time.

THURSDAY: Take physiology exam, ride :60, wts :30, review electro :60, study O&P including lab time, spend at least :60 on cardiopulmonary.

FRIDAY: Day off workouts. Take O&P test. Get haircut. Take O&P practical. Spend at least an hour on cardiopulmonary review. If possible, take electro quiz.

SATURDAY: Online electro quiz due. Take now, if not already taken. Study electro before taking test, if required. Ride 4:00. Do nothing else. Nothing, I tell you.

SUNDAY 22nd and MONDAY 23d: Study for cardiopulmonary exam. TUESDAY 24th: Take cardiopulmonary exam.

Yelp lab

Nov. 29th, 2005 07:59 pm
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So, in electrotherapeutics, we have Yelp lab.... so named because we are learning to use electricity therapeutically. Meaning, we wire people up with little sticky electrodes, and then we turn the power on and try to adjust the settings to relieve pain, control swelling, help heal a wound, or cause muscle contraction. (Electricity is cool! It can do all of those things if you set the parameters right.)

Inevitably, someone miscalculates, and hits the wrong button or turns up the power on his or her partner way, waaaay too fast. That's when the yelping starts. (You know education is happening when you hear, "Ow!" ;-)
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Ladies and gentlemen, if you've ever had PT, or possibly chiropractic, you've probably gotten an ultrasound treatment. Every PT clinic in North America has one. In my outpatient PT hours, conducted at a fairly famous clinic in Redwood City, almost every patient who came in got a moist heat pack and ultrasound (set to 1 mHz, 1 watt/second squared) for ten minutes before starting therapy.

Well, THAT was an exercise in time-wasting futility, and I will now explain why. Warning: Geeeeeky post ahead.

One: Very few studies exist that prove ultrasound is effective. It works in wound healing. It works on lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow). That's just about all that's been proven.

Two: If the ultrasound machine is set to 1 mHz, it will deep-heat tissue to a depth of about 3-4 cm. If the machine is set to 3 mHz, it will heat tissue to a depth of 1 cm.

News flash: Your skin is about that deep in many places, especially if you have subcutaneous fat.
News flash #2: If you are trying to heat a deep structure, like the piriformis muscle which is hiding under the gluteus maximus..... ain't gonna happen.

Three: Every ultrasound machine has a wand with a head on it that applies the ultrasound. You need to know, for each machine, the effective radiating area of the sound head. In a set period of time (ten seconds? Let me look that up again), you can deep-heat an area twice the size of the sound head.

News flash: A 3" diameter ultrasound head (even if ALL of it radiates the ultrasound, which it does not) will not be able to heat a large area (like an entire low back) effectively.

Despite that, PTs still use ultrasound. I saw it used yesterday on a patient. Patients think it's magic and does something special for them. (Also, treatment that involves lying down and having someone fuss over you it far more popular than ice, which does a dandy job of decreasing inflammation and pain, and also far more popular than therapeutic exercise, which might actually help correct the problem and help the patient make some headway on his/her pain. Ya think?)

All right folks: Four weeks into my first clinical, and I'm already cynical. That may be a land-speed record.
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I went to a two-day class on myokinematics today. It was taught by the inventor of postural restoration. Wow, there was a lot in there, and I know a lot more about physical therapy after those 16 hours.

I also know why postural restoration will never catch on in a big way: It's one man's brainchild, and it takes a lot of specialized knowledge and practice at it. It doesn't lend itself to the Health Souths of the world, that take three patients an hour. You have to work intensively with patients so they "get it".

But it works!

On the way there, I had a good discussion with one of the older PTs about a patient I'm seeing. Because this patient is foreign, and older, the PT pointed out that there may be more of a language barrier than the patient is willing to admit (ie sometimes she doesn't understand what we tell her, and she won't say so).

Hmm. My mentor is probably right about that one! Now that I know that problem exists, I can work around it by speaking slowly, using smaller words, and writing down any instructions I really want her to know (so she can take it home to have someone translate it if necessary).
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"You need to meet the patient where they are. If they absolutely have to ask you the same question five times, okay, that's where they are and that answer is what they most need from you today."


I can be tightly wound. I get that. In high tech, I used it to my advantage sometimes. ("Okay, I am about to tour the operating system under discussion, in a manner strongly reminiscent of Godzilla touring Tokyo, and the result will be a bunch of bug reports and an operating system left in flaming rubble. Stand BACK.")

Well, that works fine with computers, but being tightly wound around people (and in physical therapy) is not at all helpful, to them or me. I need to meet the patient where he, or she, is, and they do what I tell them, or allow me to occasionally do things to them that are painful, because I have built a trusting relationship and they know I'm on their side and want to help heal them. The relationship is paramount.

Paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatience. Compassion. Paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaatience.
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I am tired. (Two workouts a day, plus work, will do that to ya.)
I am happy. (Two workouts a day will do that to me. This is like a sports camp vacation-- all I have to do is work. Wow, I will never complain about working 40 hours again. (This is a blatant lie. Of course I will. But right now, I have a full but nonstressful schedule. Niiiice.)

Last, I am usually starving. (Oh yeah, I forgot that's what happens with two workouts a day. Duh. ;-)

And I live in chronic pain land. The PT clinic I work at has a very successful practice treating chronic back pain patients (who more than likely have been through painkillers, MDs, chiropractic, and other physical therapists before they get to us). My clinic combines intensive, specific traction (like, 20 treatments worth) with biomechanical correction physical therapy (and it's funky, but I know darn well it works, because it works on ME, thanks). It works. People see results.

So. I have been a chronic pain patient, dang it, and I know how chronic pain can take over your life and define your identity. I know how whiny, detailed, and narcissistic chronic pain patients can be about their pain.... especially to the health care provider who treats that pain.

Now, it's different. Now I have to listen to them tell me all about it. Lord grant me patience, because surely I belong on the listening end of this equation for a while. (Studies have shown that doctors tend to listen to patients talk about their symptoms for an average of 90 seconds before cutting them off, but if the doctor listens until the patient is done and then says, "Is there anything else you came to see me about?" the patient recites symptoms for an average of four minutes. (Doctors, when asked, believe the patient will go on for an hour or so.)

I used to think doctors were irrational jerks, but now I know why this is: As the person on the listening end of the "Tell me why you came to see me today," discussion, you hear EVERYTHING the patient thinks might be helpful to you (90% of which is not helpful in the slightest-- and some of which, like constipation, is way TMI). If it's a chronic pain patient (or an otherwise longstanding problem like fibromyalgia), you hear a detailed history along with that. No matter where you are in the discussion, the flow of information seems to have no end.

I had three conversations like that today. By the end of the third one, I had to retreat to the break room and breathe deeply. Patience. Lord grant me patience. That irritating patient means the world to someone out there, and has value and accomplishments I never see. Patience, Gail, right now. Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....
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I have arrived in Omaha. It is, as you might expect, freaking cold here. I have started my clinical; as promised, I'm completely confused by what they teach there; I'm ensconced in the women's dorm at College of St. Mary across the street (a spartan room with heat, doors lock, internet access, kitchen and bathing facilities down the hall-- what more can you ask for?)

More later, gotta go to 'work' now....
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In physiology today, the instructor put a patient medical history on the board.

51 year old woman who had three children (vaginal birth) then a hysterectomy
mildly obese (70 lbs. overweight)
hypertension (takes meds for that)
High blood sugar (Prediabetic-- takes meds for that)
Hypothyroid (takes synthroid for that)
Sleep apnea
Depression (takes zoloft for that)

comes to you, Doctor Physical Therapist, for (drum roll) Lateral right knee pain.

Seeing this, Mister Smart-Aleck Sports Guy in the back pipes up, "Shoot her."

That comment earned him a tolerant look and a little ribbing from the instructor (who really is a very nice person, and who has been trying to drive home, for two modules now, that the real world is full of people with medical histories like this woman has.)

We spent 45 minutes chewing on this one. Okay, you can fix the obesity and get a running start on the hypertension, high blood sugar, depression, sleep apnea, and hypothyroid if you can get her to exercise. Uh oh, she started a walking program (probably trying to do exactly that) which led to her right knee pain.

Bam! Back to start. Uh.... pool therapy?

More than likely, the depression is contributing to the overweight, because people who are depressed lack serotonin, and you can get serotonin from high-carb foods like potatoes. And in any case, the hypothyroid, high blood sugar, and hypertension are related (that combination of symptoms is called "Metabolic Syndrome".

The instructor kept driving us. Fine, pool therapy is one way to treat it, but what causes this?

Oh yeah, and she has gut sounds and sinusitis.

Because I have major food allergies, I know what that meant. She had food allergies. (Briefly, you can have X amount of stress. Whatever X is, that is the total amount of stress you can handle, and it can come from relationships, work, physical training, allergies, illnesses.... whatever. But if you have a lot of stress in ONE area, like say hard physical training, then you can't have as much stress in other areas (ie your body can't handle foods that ordinarily would not bother you, or you don't do as well in school as you otherwise would.)

More than likely, the food allergies were exacerbating many of these problems, and the instructor was quite insistent that we consider _all of them_ in treating this woman. But.... the patient will walk into my clinic expecting me to treat her knee pain (not her obesity, hypertension, etc. etc). The physician who wrote a scrip for her to see me expects me to treat the knee pain. My employer expects me to treat the knee pain. Oh yeah, and I probably get 12 visits to do it. I'd love to treat everything, but I wonder exactly how I would accomplish that.
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Biomechanics. Ah, biomechanics.

Now, don't get me wrong. I liked physics, what I took of it. It was nice and neat and orderly.

I like biomechanics, in principle. With a gifted teacher, the subject could come alive, and I'd enjoy studying it.

We do not have a gifted teacher. What we do have is an assigment that's worth 25% of our grade, that has just about everyone tearing his or her hair out by the roots. We don't understand the teacher's notation, we don't understand how to do the problems, and the professor refuses to help us. If this were physics, we'd get plenty of chances to do practice problems before we had to do problems we were tested on. Not here. Arrrrrghhh!!!! My community college physics class was taught better than this and I got more out of it. Arrrggghhh!!!!

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I'm pretty disappointed. Oh, sure, I did okay on the physiology quiz (I probably got a 70%, which is a survival grade, and the class has been giving me fits, so that's fine with me)... but really now, I would like to actually learn physiology. Instead, I'm learning a random collection of miscellaneous facts, and they'll stick in my memory for approximately 10 minutes after I take the final, and then they'll join the vast collection of PR times, commercial jingles, and desperately important information that I no longer use that's swirling around my subconscious... in short, completely inaccessible to my conscious mind.

I'd like to think that the classes I'm taking will help me to become a physical therapist and pass the boards. This one will not do that. The only thing it may possibly do is keep me from becoming a physical therapist if I fail it. Grr.

At least I now have a reasonable strategy to memorize the material quickly and easily: I determined, after talking to my classmates, that they don't read the book. They listen to the lecture with the study guide questions (that the professor writes) open in front of them, and they take notes only on the material that appears in the study guide questions. If they crack the book, it's to read ONLY the material that is mentioned in the study guide. Aha. If I want to see my bike again between now and July, when this class ends, this is the way to go. (I also plan to turn in all the study guide questions to the professor after I complete them, even though she only asks for half of them. That way she can check that I really do understand what is going on. She also tends to contradict herself, so if there's a dispute about a test question, I have a written record that what I put down was the right thing (assuming I can accurately reproduce what was on the study guide in a test situation.)

Sheesh. I say again, sheesh. What a waste of my time and energy.
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The anatomy professor at our school is a 4'10" dynamo. She's one of the nicest people I've ever met, and she (like most of the rest of the faculty here) is a charter member of the full-plate club: She teaches us (four hours of class a week, plus eight hours of lab a week), plus she is starting a wound care clinic at the local hospital, plus she treats people at said hospital, plus she publishes research papers, plus she is a mom.

Okay... I'm a hyperfocused, pretty organized and efficient triathlete, used to fitting in 2-3 workouts a day where you might not think there was room for those, and I am still stunned by the sheer amount of stuff this particular professor manages to get done-- plus, when she noticed that I seemed upset, she made arrangements to meet me outside class to chat. I'm not the only one she's done that for, either. She's rapidly become one of my favorite professors, so when I heard that one of the people in my class (who's been snotty to just about everyone, incidentally) had complained to her that anatomy "wasn't being taught in sufficent depth".... and this particular professor was very upset about that... I was displeased.

Survey says: Gail Must Shred Offending Party!

Whoops, wait a minute. Physical therapists have to pass a background check. Can't practice as a PT if felony shreddage is lurking on your record. Time for Plan B.

I ended up telling the professor that I was really enjoying the class, and getting a lot out of it, and that if she ever happened to need another cadaver for the lab, I would be happy to arrange that for her (even if it was slightly bruised when she got it). <-- this last was funny at the time, probably because of the words I chose and the facial expressions I was using. She laughed. Mission accomplished.

I further suggested to her that anyone who wanted more out of the course could certainly arrange to do some extra work in more depth after the quarter had ended... say, a special course that would take nine days to do... exactly the length of our current spring break. (Devious? Me? Naaaaah....)
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So, we all took the anatomy quiz on Friday morning. We filed into the cadaver lab, only to find a table of bones with tags (Identify this bone, or bony landmark) and eight cadavers on display with little tags here and there (What's this muscle? Be specific!)

The only problem: The cadavers are kept in tables that have lockable metal covers. When you want to work on the cadaver, you unlock the cover and fold it, and its sharp edges, down to "bang knee here" height. You can lock the covers out of the way, if you have two people... but the instructor had only herself and her achy back to set up before the quiz. So it was the Quiz of Pain: people shuffling thoughtfully through the lab, occasionally uttering muffled yelps as they banged themselves on the tables.

I'm pleased to report that just about everything on the quiz seemed comfortingly familiar. There was only one structure (the mastoid process, duh) that I didn't know immediately.

In a complete change of subject.... when I showed up to ride this morning, another woman was there. She's a PharmD student at UNC-Chapel Hill, and this was her first time on the bike since Christmas or so. It was really nice to talk to a fellow grad student.

I could not believe how civilized the ride was. I was off the front, following the two or three fast people, and everyone else was back with Ms. First Time (who they all already knew, apparently). When she bonked, they fed her their power bars, too. The bottom line: She asked for mercy, and they were all very nice to her. When I showed up for the first time, I did not ask for mercy, and I busted my butt trying to keep up (and mostly did keep up).

There was mercy available, and I only had to ask for it? Who knew.

I suspect there's a life lesson here.

In any case, I already knew that if I showed up and busted my tail repeatedly on the weekly rides, I would be in better shape, and I'd go faster. And now, a month later, I'm in better shape, and I go faster. Asking for mercy would have been counterproductive in that respect. (In fact, I'm going to start showing up at the early ride (the Turtle ride, because they bundle up in several layers since it's cold) and staying for the later ride (the Fred ride, because Fred picks the routes).
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I am quite behind. No sooner do I get a physiology chapter read, than the lecturer starts on a new one. And no sooner do I get a region of anatomy (or the nerves, or the bones, or the muscles) firmly in my head... than we start a new one. Let's not even discuss research design, clinical skills, or the clinical seminar class.

I'm trying not to panic. I'm not very successful at not panicking.

In related news, I've discovered that it's good to put your car keys in the leg pocket of your scrubs. Do not put them in the chest pocket. It wouldn't do to lean over the cadaver and lose them in there.

Our cadaver, the only female of the group, is small and fragile. Other people have much larger ones. Larger is both good and bad: You spend lots of time scraping fat off, but then you have large and well defined muscles to look at when you are done. (One of the male cadavers is small... i.e. short... and thoroughly muscled. He's old, but not fat. Even with the skin off, you can see the power and vitality he had. But working on our small, frail female cadaver drives home to us just how fragile the frail elderly can be. (Ours had a strip of tape on the wrist... and a bad bruise on the back of her hand.... strongly reminiscent of an IV insertion site. I'm guessing that she was hospitalized.)
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I have the bone box.

Specifically, I have a box of bones that purportedly contains a complete replica human skeleton, which my dissection group gets to check out and take home so we can get very cozy with exactly what bones look like and which ones go where and how they fit together. (It's very cool to be able to play with a loose skeleton. All the ones in class are wired together, so you can't do that.)

Unfortunately, when I cracked the bone box this morning (at 4 AM west coast time, 7 AM my time.... for our guests at home, yes, I get a big kick out of causing mayhem while you are still sleeping.... anyway, when I cracked the bone box, I found a skull, two shoulder blades, lots of vertebrae (but not quite enough), two iliums (pieces of the pelvis), a sacrum (another one of those pieces of the pelvis), two kneecaps, a bunch of long bones I've not counted yet.... and one hand. The other hand, and both feet, were conspicuously mising.

Sigh. Did I mention that my group is responsible for this $500 bone box?

In other news.... we're all starting to get the deer-in-headlights look. There's a lot to learn, did I mention that?
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(Warning: Gross posting! I'm having a great time, and I'm fascinated, though.)

Today was, as the title suggests, the second day of cadaver lab. I'm pleased to report that it was easier today... mostly. Today's task: Remove the skin and fascia on the back, and expose the superficial back muscles.

We unlocked the cadaver out of her cabinet, only to find that the skin on her back had a folded, dali-esque quality to it. It didn't look human; it looked like it belonged to a slightly melted waxwork or a barbie doll that'd been left in the really hot sun, had melted into slightly rectangular shapes, and then had been left to set that way. I've seen the other ones look like that also; it must have something to do with the formaldehyde interacting with the skin.

It would have been easy enough to deal with that, except that the head hadn't changed, and I could see a very human ear and the side of the face. So I looked at waxwork flesh... grandma's ear... waxwork flesh... grandma's ear. Aaaaagh! I eventually ended up covering the head with a towel, so I didn't have to look at it.

We made the incisions on the back and began peeling the skin and fascia away from the muscle. We eventually ended up with the skin peeled completely away from the back, so it acted as two big "cabinet doors" on either side of the spine; we closed them back up when we were done, to keep the muscles from drying out.

Passing thought: This woman lived inside her body for an entire lifetime, and never saw the view of herself we're seeing now, never knew herself in this way.

I did discover some interesting things. One, this woman was very skinny. Not much fat. The people who have cadavers with lots of fat have to remove it before they can see the muscles. Two (which is probably related) her muscles tend to be very small and not well developed-- as though there was muscle wasting going on. For instance, when training clients, part of my standard training patter when getting them to do back exercises was to teach where the latissimus dorsi was, explain that that was the latin for "Really big back muscle", and get them to do an exercise for it-- typically lat pulls or bench rows. Well, this woman's latissimus dorsi was not "really big"-- it was so small that I accidentally left it attached to her skin. There were just a few wimpy looking muscle fibers where the lat should be. Yikes!

Deduction: She wasn't using crutches or a self-propelled wheelchair to get around. Nor was she reaching for high objects on shelves, nor pulling things down, nor opening heavy doors toward herself. That's a lot of limitation.

I also found two other things I didn't expect. One, the muscle fibers of the rear delt appear to be contiguous with the muscle fibers of the upper trapezius; you have to feel for the spine of the scapula, where the trap attaches (on one side) and the rear delt attaches (on the other side). Posters don't show that. Posters show them as distinctly different.

Two, we found two large pulpy bruises on either side of the underarm. (The rest of the muscle fibers lack blood; they look like fibers. The bruises have blood in and around the muscle fibers. In that spot, the poor woman's muscles look like raw steak. Oooh, those had to hurt a lot.) Our first thought was that the bruises were caused by crutches, but I suspect she didn't have the upper body strength to use crutches successfully. I suspect that someone tried to transfer her to a wheelchair with hands under her arms. It is also possible that she was taking Coumadin, which causes people to bruise VERY easily.

It's interesting to me that, once we opened the skin on the back, it became less of a gross and sick thing to do, and I was subsumed in the technical challenge and the busywork. (Separate this skin and fascia from these muscles, and do it neatly.) I have to admit, years of patient, neat detail work in historic costuming really helped me out here.

The technical challenge didn't completely erase the gross factor, though. After the first lab day, I had flashbacks to the lab experience for about three days, and I had nightmares of drinking used embalming fluid. After the second lab day (yesterday) I kept having recurrent mental pictures of tripping and doing a faceplant into the exposed back muscles of the cadaver... and flashbacks to the view of the back muscles.

The flashbacks are useful to me, I guess. I will not forget what real back muscles look like, and no amount of pictures, posters, or diagrams can compare to what you find out looking at, and touching, poking, pulling, and moving the real muscles.
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Today was the cadaver lab day.

Warning: GROSS POSTING.... up close and personal with cadavers... I warned you!

As it got closer and closer to the lab time, I got more and more quiet. I was wigging out, in my own don't-let-it-show way.

We changed out (you wear scrubs and old shoes in the cadaver lab, because everything you wear, and you, begin to smell like formaldehyde after a while, and the smell does not come out easily ) and filed into the lab.

I got more and more anxious. The cadavers were on tables, hidden from view behind covering metal cabinets. Our task today was to drain them (whatever THAT meant), wash them, and generally prepare them to be dissected. (At a well equipped school, the cadavers are kept on special tables with formaldehyde tanks below the working surface. When you're done working with the cadaver, you turn a crank and the cadaver gets lowered into the vat of formaldehyde. When you want to work on it again, you turn the crank and raise the cadaver out of the vat and up to the working level. We don't have those, so we will liberate our cadavers from their plastic bags full of embalming fluid, place them in body bags lined with sheets impregnated with rubbing alcohol, and we will wash down the cadavers with bleach.

Then it happened: The first cabinet opened, and there's a naked, dead, butt-white old guy on one of the tables, partially obscured by the plastic bag covering him. He was clearly a guy, since his penis was halfway erect, even after his sojourn in a vat of embalming fluid.


I can't look, and I can't not look.

Then there were nine more of them, as we each opened our designated cabinet. I stared at ours for a full thirty seconds before determining that she was female. (Bald... skinny.....face not feminine... no breasts.... hands tied together covering crotch area.... what I was looking at was disturbingly human, but not human, and it took me a few moments to trace the contours and determine that yes, I was looking at a dead female body.


I kept imagining that if these formerly live people were to find themselves naked, lying on tables in a room full of graduate students, they'd be very embarrassed and upset.

I'd breathe deeply to calm down, but the air was full of formaldehyde. Okay, DeCamp, you can walk out of here and quit school if you really, really want to.

Do you?

Gut check! Do ya want it? Bad enough to do something that wigs you out?

I want it. I was in. Okay, back-- with some remaining trepidation-- to the cadaver.

There were five cadavers and five groups of four people each. We started out with each group prepping their own cadaver, but by the time we got to the last group (mine), everyone was helping out so we could get to the next lab on time. We had to drain the fluids in the plastic body bag, then cut the strings that held their hands and legs together and roll, slide, or otherwise move the cadaver over to our special body bag lined with alcohol-soaked sheets. When we'd moved the cadaver, we washed down the skin with Clorox. (You can imagine the smells in the room.... formaldehyde, bleach, and alcohol. Eeew! But because we have no refrigeration for them, we have to keep them thoroughly disinfected. They're already full of formaldehyde, we just help that a little.)

It sounds like a simple process, but remember, we were dealing with cadaver juice (composed of embalming fluid and fat that had leached out) contained in a body-sized plastic bag. You don't wanna get any of that on you. ;-) The embalming fluid seemed to have done odd things to them; one had its abdominal skin corrugated; others had heels or buttocks flattened. All had their heads shaved, I am not sure why.

We asked where the cadavers had come from. Apparently some people donate their body to science. (Hey, that's me. I am now "Science". I really appreciate that they did that.) Others are wards of the state, and if they have no money and no relatives, this is what happens to them. I hope that is not the case with ours.

Thankfully, we did not get any actual dissecting done. We start on the back next Tuesday.
ninevirtues: (Default)
So, we started a new term. Classes are:

Cadaver anatomy
Patient Care Skills I
Patient Care Skills 2 (including massage!)

Goodness gracious, I've never seen so many books for one single term before. Here's the rundown:

Cadaver anatomy--- this is going to be more fun than I thought it would be. It may be one of my favorite classes, in fact. We had a memorial service for the cadavers yesterday, in which a campus chaplain (remember, this is a Christian school) prayed over the cadavers in a non-sectarian way. He also included in the prayer, not very subtly, several reminders to be respectful of them and a reminder that we could go to see him if we were having difficulty with the whole cadaver idea.

For the record, cadavers are preserved in formaldehyde when we're not using them. Yes, they smell. Yes, the fumes get in your clothes and on your skin, and a shower does not remove the smell, and I expect to smell like formaldehyde for several months.

The textbook for that class is Grant's Dissector. It includes detailed instructions for where to cut and what to look at. Nice. Scary, but nice.

Patient Care Skills I and II: Ah yes, I finally feel like a PT student. Reading for I was an entire chapter on moving and positioning a patient. Reading for II is an entire chapter on taking notes (remember, the notes are a legal document and EVERYTHING a PT does with a patient is documented. Yipe!)

The funny part here is that women are required to wear halter tops or bathing suit tops for lab, because they need access to your back. This is no problem for me-- DeAnza College had exactly the same dress requirement-- but every other woman in the class is squawking. They all think they are going to wear tank tops. I suspect that the instructor will give them a talking-to when we have lab today, and they will re-evaluate.

I don't own any damn halter tops. The best I can figure it that I will buy a halter top bra, and go buy some cheap, cute fabric to go over it, and make a halter top that is sewn to the bra. I'm not sure. I'll wait and see how the situation develops.

I haven't had Research yet.

Physiology looks hard, but if I put the study time in, I should be fine.

Other than that, I used my no-homework weekend to go to a women's racing clinic in Atlanta. I am now equipped to be a baby bike racer, something I've been wanting to do for a long time. Trouble is, it turns out that my faithful Trek 2120 is heavier and clunkier than the average racing bike... and using it would be like running a footrace with ankle weights. Uh oh. A new bike (or even a used one) is expensive, and I just don't have the budget for that. I'm asking around to see who has what components, or frames, I can use to upgrade. I already found some wheels with Ultegra hubs and Mavic rims on eBay. Now to see if I can upgrade pedals and gears.
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