Monday, March 1, 2010

The strangest birthday request

"Hey mom - for my birthday can you take me to see dead bodies?"

Yeah, that probably hasn't been heard before. But it's what I asked my mom for my birthday. For us to go to the Bodies exhibit, currently in Seattle.

It makes sense for someone like me, completely in love with the science of the human body. And I knew my mom would be excited to go too. My sister also jumped up at the chance, with more enthusiasm than I had seen in a while. Hubby also decided to go, so the 4 of us went to Seattle. To see dead people. Even better, to PAY to see dead people.

Gosh, when I say it like that it sounds creepy. But I loved it. It was fascinating. It was beautiful.

Using a special preservation process, donated bodies that have voluteered for the program are disected in special ways to highlight various systems or organs. And when I say "special", I mean "how in the holy heck did they do that?".

Immediately when we walked in, we went to the "touching booth" - the only thing you were allowed to touch. There was a kidney and the temporal lobe of the brain. This just fueled my fire. I wanted more. Must see more. There was an almost complete central nervous system - just the brain, eyes, and central nerves laid out. Sections of the brain were in another display case - one showed the aftermath of a stroke. Then a full body stood up and positioned "in action" (well, almost full - the abdomen was exposed and the skin was absent). This body freaked me out for a moment - it still had eyelashes. Holy cow - eyelashes? It was the moment that made it real for me. These were real bodies. Real humans. Real people. Wow.

My favorite highlights of the exhibit:

* Two bodies stood facing each other, touching hands. One was the skeleton, the other muscles and a little skin. Wait - it's not two bodies - it's the same body, just the skeleton separated out. Try to imagine that.

* Lungs were shown - both healthy and with lung cancer from smoking. And another with emphysema from smoking. Ok, I've seen this before - the highlight to me was that there was a giant plexiglass box next to the unhealthy lungs where visitors could put in their cigarettes. And my sister (almost) did. (she didn't have a backup plan - patches - with her and she didn't want to kill us.) That was a highlight. It's not too late, sis.

* They had several organs as well as a complete body showing just the circulatory system. They injected a polymer plastic into the veins, and then chemically dissolved the rest. So what was left was just veins, arteries and the heart. Wow.

* An entire body was laid out - how do I say? In the natural position? Except that it was all in micro cross sections separated by about an inch. I can't even describe it accurately. The video on the site for the Seattle exhibit shows it.

* A highlight - that also brought me to tears - was the fetus displays. It was in a completely separate section with a sign warning visitors what the exhibit was, reminding them that all babies were lost naturally and legally volunteered, and encouraging visitors to make sure they wanted to see before proceeding. I wasn't sure. I waited. I made sure that hubby was with me. I took a deep breath. And I walked in. It was fascinating. I think I was able to pretend for a bit that it wasn't real. And it was beautiful to see the creation of life in process. The miracle that occurs to make this tiny - so tiny - embryo grow into a fetus - then bigger into a viable human. Seeing the miracle of God in front of me was amazing. Then I saw a baby that was 15 weeks - as old as our baby. And for a moment I thought "awww - how amazing - that's just like our little baby". And then the very next moment I realized that the baby in front of my eyes didn't make it. And what would happen if our baby... oh boy. That was it. I quietly slipped out, had to sit down, and tried to catch my breath. I had a few tears, but I'm still glad that I went in.

All in all, an amazing opportunity. It furthered my love for this amazing science. It made me hunger for more. And, I must say, it was an excellent birthday present. Thanks, mom! =)

PS: I spared the faint of heart by not posting pictures. But if you want to see some, there are plenty online. Definintely worth a look. It's fascinating.