Saturday, May 05, 2012

vital signs

i washed my hands afterward half a dozen times.

it still didn't seem like enough.

i dislike cadaver lab.

don't get me wrong...i understand the value of the research. i respect the people who contribute their earthly remains to the cause of science. and i appreciate the opportunity to participate in the work.

i just wish i didn't have to be there for it.

most of the time, i'm fine. as long as i keep my eyes on the instruments and the monitors and the activities of the physicians. but that's not possible 100% of the time. and if i get even a little distracted from those things, i notice the person on the table in front of us. and for just a few moments, my imagination kicks on.

i conjure up a life for him. a smiling, bright-eyed wife. a son he taught to throw a baseball. a daughter he taught to ride a bicycle. a mother who held him when he was a boy.

sometimes a vivid imagination is less an asset than it is a curse.

the unwelcome images flash past me in half a second. their effect on my heart lasts longer. none of it is reconcilable with what's happening on the table. or with the cardboard box, lined with black plastic, on the gurney nearby.

near as i can tell, no one else is similarly distracted. the physicians chatter away with a detached, clinical demeanor. the engineers are professional, moving with purpose from one task to the next. i circle the table, taking pictures, tracking the conversations. i hover over the subject, within inches, as the work goes on.

my iphone contains dozens of images i would like to simply delete. instead, i will have to download and archive them for others to review. much as i'd rather, i can't imagine assigning such a task to somebody else.

the lab lasted two-plus hours that went by in the blink of an eye. toward the end, i was offered, and accepted, one of the devices, and used successfully it on the subject.

by "successfully," i mean "my eyes never left the monitor."


this morning the missus and i walked the dogs down to the village, like we do every weekend. we went to the bakery, as we usually do, ordered coffee and a piece of quiche and a walnut raisin roll.

after a while, a frail, elderly man with a cane hobbled through the door and eased himself onto the bench a couple tables away. he looked over at me looking at him, and gave me a little smile. i smiled a little and nodded back.

but i will tell you, what i really wanted to do at that moment was get up and run out the door.

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