Panic around Cadavers

EMT2B

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Hello~
I am taking an Anatomy and Physiology class (Final exam next week) and yesterday the class went to the cadaver lab. I opted out of going because the "long-dead" give me panic attacks. This stems from a traumatic experience I had as a little girl. I can handle things like evisceration, gaping bloody wounds, protruding bones, etc. I can even handle being around the nearly dead and the newly dead. Its just those folks that have been dead for a long time that really creep me out.
When cadaver labs were discussed early in the semester, the teacher seemed fine with my not going (as it is not a requirement of the class), but yesterday, she kept trying to push me into going. I finally just had to tell her that "me + cadaver = Panic attack."
I was talking it over with my mom last night. We talked about how I didn't go into Nursing because I didn't want to have to deal with cadavers and dissection. I think my main issue with cadavers is that I *know* that it was a person at one point, and now its just something to be poked and prodded. :wacko:
I realize that if I want to continue my education and become a Paramedic, I will have to overcome this fear. I was just wondering if anyone had any advice on how to do that.
 

bigbaldguy

Former medic seven years 911 service in houston
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I would encourage you to research the process through which cadavers are provided to these programs. The body donation programs like Bio gift don't just get these people from thin air. The people who you will be practicing your craft on made a deliberate decision to donate their bodies because they want you and people like you to be able to better do the job. If you better understand how and why these people came to be in front of you maybe it will help with your anxiety. Just google body donation.
 

mycrofft

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I don't think most nursing programs have cadaver dissection. I am pretty sure you can refuse it if there is one. We saw the cadaver lab and talked with the med students who stopped their work to talk to us, and I'm glad we didn't have lab because as it turned out formalin made me sneeze. hint hint.
 

nwhitney

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To go along with BBG I would suggest reading Stiff by Mary Roach.
 

mycrofft

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"Stiff" was cool but not add good as a good therapist.
 

EMT2B

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@BBG~
I know that people donate their bodies to science for the specific purpose of letting folks like myself utilize them as a teaching tool. I realize that my school didn't just raid a graveyard or the morgue to get the cadavers. o_O
______________________________________________________________________________________

Pretty much everyone in the class who went to the lab yesterday came back and said things like "You couldn't even tell this was a person." and "It just looks like meat, like in a butcher shop." I guess my problem is that those kinds of statements almost de-humanize the bodies. Like, ... *thimks* ... (what am I trying to convey?) like ... like the cadaver was never a human being in the first place.

One of the men in my class told me the cadavers were, like, 10+ years old (small community college). That actually made me a bit sick to my stomach that the school has had the same bodies for over 10 years. *shudder*

Mycrofft~
I'm fairly certain the nursing program at my school requires the cadaver lab. I seem to remember a friend of my sister's talking about being required to go to the cadaver lab when she was in the Nursing Program there.

I'll look for that book. And talk to my Therapist. Thanks!
 

Sasha

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My only advice is to to force yourself to see it and get accustomed to it. Bring your xanax with you and pop it when needed.

That's how I overcame my fear of needles and mine was so bad I got nervous picking one up.

I cried HYSTERICALLY when we did IVs in medic school. Both when I was starting one and when I was getting one.

But I kept volunteering to get stuck and eventually it became no big deal.

This IS important to overcome. I remember having to run a 3 lead on some no codes no vitals(obviously dead. Like rigored with lividity) to confirm death a few times in medic school.

The first time I was afraid I was going to get in there to apply the leads and this lady was going to pop up and bite me. She was obviously dead. Pupils fixed, half out of bed, stiff with lividity. She was ice ice cold. It was eerie. It made me nervous. But it had to be done.
 

crazycajun

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Wow!!! I thought Gross lab was the neatest thing ever!!! It gave me such a better understanding of A&P and now I visit every chance I get to see different diseases and such. Not to mention it smells like peppermint in there. I love Peppermint!!!!!
 

firetender

Community Leader Emeritus
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Another angle:

The more I got exposed to death, moments of deaths, lingering deaths, sudden deaths, senseless deaths and prayed for deaths I learned something very valuable:

The body ain't us!

Maybe that came from enough time living right there on the edge with the patient where here they're alive and now they're gone; just like that!

And I'm left presiding over a conglomeration of un-animated, physical matter that is sooo much different than what it was a few moments ago it is almost unfathomable!

I found much wonder in that and in an odd sort of way, appreciation! I suppose spending time with the dead and contemplating such thoughts taught me something about life, even if I don't understand it. Just facing it is enough.
 

Akulahawk

EMT-P/ED RN
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I agree with some of the above posters. Your cadaver lab cadavers didn't just get there out of thin air. You really need to investigate how those bodies got there. Every time I went to do something with the cadaver in my school's lab, I mentally thanked the person for allowing me to learn from them. These days, while I spend my time among the living, I still thank my patients for the opportunity they gave me to learn from them. They know I'm a student and very grateful for their allowing me to work with them.

About the living vs. the dead... I think I explained it pretty well at my grandpa's funeral a few years ago: The body is a lot like a house. When you move out, all that's left of the home is the shell - the house. Grandpa moved out and went home. There's just something different about the dead, and I really think that's what we're picking up on.
 

bigbaldguy

Former medic seven years 911 service in houston
Premium Member
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@BBG~
I know that people donate their bodies to science for the specific purpose of letting folks like myself utilize them as a teaching tool. I realize that my school didn't just raid a graveyard or the morgue to get the cadavers. o_O


I still recommend researching the process, it's very enlightening. Fear and anxiety usually come from not knowing everything about what you fear. Fight fear with knowledge.
 

Handsome Robb

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I will say that in the field you will encounter people that have been dead for a long time.

I tend to get the ones that are freshly dead, either a working code or <24 hrs since they died.

I've seen an experienced firefighter and medic puke at one. They aren't pretty but it is part of the job.

I personally really enjoyed the cadaver lab but I'm a weirdo.
 

gastrocnemesis1

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Cadavers and Panic Attacks

Hi! So, I was looking on the internet for other people's experiences with cadavers and came across your post. I, like you, have struggled with panic attacks and a HUGE fear of cadavers. I'm actually a physical therapy student, but signed up for the site for the sole purpose of letting you know that I was in your situation before (I even doubted my ability to do PT school based on the fact that there are cadavers) and I am managing to do just fine. I see so much of myself in your post, it's crazy! I didn't think I'd be able to get myself to stop thinking about the fact that the cadaver was once a person, but when you're in lab, and you're really interested in learning about muscles, bones, ligaments...whatever!...you get pretty wrapped up in that. Like I said, I've been in your situation before. No matter what I say, it's still going to be a very challenging situation for you to overcome. I'm sure you're sitting there thinking I'm crazy for saying that once you get in there you just focus on the specific structures...I would have doubted that too! I just wish I would have had someone to tell me that they were in my shoes once and got through, I think it would have helped make it a little better. If you find that what you really want to do involves having to face the cadavers, please don't give up on yourself! I promise that you will overcome the fear!

If you're interested, I try to keep a blog about my PT school experience that focuses mostly on my cadaver lab experience. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me either on here or on my blog (I'd prefer my blog since I have no use for this website! But you might have to be a member of wordpress to contact me, so if that's a problem just contact me here!) The OP was back in May so I hope you're doing better now!


I can't post a link to my blog on here but you can search it as:
The life of a DPT student blog on wordpress. My username is gastrocnemesis
 

Porta

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"Stiff" made me take a detour from EMS into Funeral Sciences. Awesome book, it's funny and very informative.
You're going to be dealing with death and dying in this field, my suggestion is finding a really good therapist and working through whatever trauma you were exposed to as a child.

My first experience with a dead body was my mother, and after I had major issues with the dead. But, like Sasha suggested, I kinda just forced the issue with myself and got over it.
It may sound cold, but what made these people human is gone now. You don't have anything to fear. They gave a huge gift so you can learn.
It's going to take time and you can't be impatient with yourself. If you have a passion for this field, you'll figure something out.
Just don't self-destruct over it.
 

mycrofft

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OP has an issue with cadavers, not the freshly dead.
 

Handsome Robb

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OP has an issue with cadavers, not the freshly dead.
I'm not sure I understand the difference.

I mean there are obvious differences of course but the concept seems the same to me...just my .02
 
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