I remember the first time I got to use a bone saw.
It was oh-so-very long ago (last semester), and I was terrified.
“How do you use it?” I asked my labmates nervously.
“You turn it on,” she said, weighed down once again by the fact that I ask really silly questions when I’m nervous.
I rolled my eyes at her, and glanced at Eddie. He shrugged.
“Don’t look at me!” he said. “I’d probably just cut the dog in half.”
I knew not to ask Brooke. If she wanted to do it, she would have jumped on it. Besides, she’d done such things before, and wanted us to get some experience.
“Well,” I said, drawing the word out so that there was plenty of time to stop me, “I suppose I could do it…”
Nearly before I’d finished the sentence, the saw was in my hands and the safety goggles were on my face. My labmates, however, were suddenly about 20 feet away, watching me nervously, out of the range of any maniacal bone-slashing that might occur. I took a deep breath, plugged in the saw, braced myself, and turned it on.
Five minutes later, I turned it back off and removed the zygomatic arch from our dog’s skull. Pulling off the goggles and blowing my bangs out of my face, I looked up to give my group the all-clear, only to find that the group had grown. About ten of my classmates stood there, staring at me with a mixture of fascination and fear. I grinned at them with my teeth still buzzing from the vibration of the saw.
This didn’t appear to comfort them.
(I kind of wish someone had taken a picture. I still don’t know what I looked like to evoke that response.)
Still, though, nobody ever tries to take the saw away from me. And I love the saw.
So there’s that.
The other day, we were again treated to the joy of bone-saw use, but this time it was to perform a laminectomy. For those who don’t know (since I didn’t know until last week), this basically involves removing the top chunk of the spinal vertebrae so as to reveal the gross stuff inside. Okay, in a real medical situation, I suppose you might perform a laminectomy to release some pressure on the spinal cord, but *we* were just there to look at the squishy bits.
So, we were given a meaty spine with a tail attached (which, by the way, is exceedingly creepy) and told to perform this laminectomy on the lumbar/sacral region. After cutting off all the stuff in the way, we got down to the nitty-gritty of standing around and arguing about what the written instructions told us to do next. Jenny had a very definite opinion on how things were supposed to go, but the rest of us weren’t sure. Finally, a bone-saw freed up and I got bored, so I went ahead and decided to give things a try. We could always look at someone else’s dissection if ours went terribly awry.
My labmates knew the drill by now—the girls went over to the safety of the far wall, and Eddie braced the spine, averting his eyes.
Having had a small amount of practice at this point, I got going without a lot of hesitation, although my stomach dropped every time I made it through one wall of the vertebrae and shicked over to the other side without any resistance.
"Don’t let me cut the cord, don’t let me cut the cord, don’t let me cut the cord," I chanted to myself. I cut that ONE SCIATIC NERVE that ONE TIME, and I’ve still never heard the end of it.
Popping the severed half of the spinal column off, it turned out that I hadn’t cut a single darn thing, and it was BEAUTIFUL. Before my labmates could protest, I grabbed my scalpel and carefully cut through some of those squishy bits mentioned above, performing the dissection deftly and with panache. Everything was perfect. Nothing was cut that shouldn’t be. My labmates looked on in awe.
To be fair, the awe was deserved. The dissection was pretty, and I have a long history of screwing that up.
Then, my entire reason for existence was validated when not one, but TWO of my professors came over and complimented the dissection. I glowed. I floated. I burst into a cloud of glitter and sunflowers. I was fairly certain that not only was I going to be a FABULOUS veterinarian, I also might go on to become a world-renowned neurological surgeon.
I might even * gasp * get out of debt someday.
The possibilities are AWESOME.