Sunday, October 2, 2011
Dyeing and autopsies
Friday was my last day in the Histology department at the Hospital for Sick Children.
Now that rotation is over and I miss it a little, even though Histology was my least favorite aspect of medical laboratory technology. I always felt as though I was memorizing facts about it (a lot of facts) without ever really enjoying the material or the lab work the way I enjoy microbiology.
Worse, after each semester I would promptly forget everything I had studied, meaning the entire process had to be repeated for the next set of exams. Which was kind of depressing.
But the rotation helped a lot. Histology still isn't the most fun I've ever had in a laboratory (that would be the time I had to check on a bacterial culture at a quarter to midnight, so the guy I was dating came with me, and to this day I don't remember if the bacteria were all right). But anyway. When you spend all day working in one field, it's much easier to become proficient in it, and the rotation drew everything together so that all the facts I'd memorized made a lot more sense.
And then I got to see an autopsy.
I've read a lot of Patricia Cornwell's novels - Post-Mortem, Body of Evidence, etc - but seeing the autopsy for myself was... different, to say the least. No description can recreate the sharp smell of formalin, the sweat on your forehead, the sound of connective tissue tearing away, the squishy slippery feel of internal organs. I wasn't sure I would bear up beforehand, but it was all right as long as I didn't look at the face, hands or feet.
Staring at the torso made it easier to think of the anatomy diagrams in my textbook instead. I won't ever want to perform autopsies, but this one was an unforgettable experience.
Finally, on Friday I got a new lab coat because the old one was covered with colorful spots and blotches from all the tissue-staining we'd done during the week. And on Monday I start in Hematology.