Tuesday, August 12, 2014

More Brains

I was inspired by Cutter's latest Mothers In Medicine post: (Don't) Hide Your Kids. Stepmom Rachel was going to take the kids to work with her Monday, and post-call Dad was going to take them on Tuesday since he was off. I switched plans at the last minute. "Why don't I take Cecelia Monday, and Jack Tuesday to work with me? The office next door for the part time pathologist is vacant they can scoot the odd chairs together, we'll bring pillows and blankets and ipads." I had only taken Cecelia to work once last Spring in my seven years here. Before that I snuck them in on the odd weekends. I was hiding my kids.

Cecelia's day was magical - we went to lunch with our friend Padma and had time at the end of the day to shop for gifts in the gift shop before meeting their new dog at dad and stepmom's. Jack was a little more enamored since it was his first full day. Both kids loved meeting all my co-workers - they haven't been totally absent, they knew a few, but this was pretty big for them both.

Jack watched a movie and finished a back to school project due tomorrow (procrastinator like me) and played internet games. Padma took him to the histotech lab to show him the ropes there and to the gift shop to pick out truffles. While in the histotech lab he met a path assistant. "Mom, she told me there was a foot in the gross room. I think I want to see it."

It was the end of the day so I tied up my work and he packed up his things then we headed over. C wants nothing to do with the gross room ("Ewww Mom I'll meet the people but that's it no body parts!") but he is fascinated. He wandered over to the path assistant's work station to survey the foot - it was a partial amputation with just toes. The path assistant showed him the toes and the gangrenous ulcer - the reason for the amputation. I monitored his reaction - he looked nonplussed. "That isn't the grossest thing I've ever seen."

The lead path assistant - an ex/currant-hippie wearing black scrubs and a black bandanna called us over to his table. He used to be a criminal defense lawyer so he has a flair for drama and take what I report that he says here with a grain of salt.

"I've got something you might like to see." Jack was curious. The lawyer reached down to the floor behind his grossing station and pulled out a bucket. I pointed out the facetious name on the bucket to Jack. "Abby Normal." it was written in Black Sharpie all caps. I said, "Get it Jack? It's a made up name based on the word abnormal."

The lawyer said, "See if you can guess what it is when I pull it out of the bucket." Jack was staring intently. As soon as the specimen left the opaque white bucket he stated, "Brain." I said, "Good Jack, that was quick." Jack asked, "So, it's a whole brain? Is that for a brain transplant?"

The lawyer didn't blink an eye. He was running his gloved finger along the sulcus and rotating the brain to expose the cerebellum and the stump of spinal cord. "Well, I don't think they have quite perfected that yet. Nope this is an old brain from an autopsy. It got lost down here in the buckets in the corner and now we just pull it out occasionally for show."

Jack stared for a minute or two while the lawyer was describing the anatomy and suddenly announced, "Ok I'm done with the brain."

The lawyer respectfully and quickly returned it to the bucket and I told Jack I wanted to show him the microscope where I read the frozens and the bat phone to call the OR. Jack said, "Yes, I think I am ready to see a microscope." I said, "Well, if you ever turn into a zombie, now you know where to find a brain to eat. In that corner." Jack smirked.

I am impressed how well he processed it. Any worries I had about destroying his thirst for science were quelled tonight at dinner while he manically tried to explain some sort of titanium substance that is incrementally colder than dry ice - I wish I was paying attention more but I was busy getting things ready for first day of 3rd and 6th grade tomorrow.

Thanks Cutter. The experience was indescribably rewarding and I'm looking forward to more in the future. Not too much, but enough for my kids to know what I do. Their life is not a mystery to me but mine has definitely been a mystery to them. We all gained a helluva lot from the experience.




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