Marissa and “The Scariest Thing That Has Ever Happened To Me During Lab”

We dissected fetal pigs in anatomy class the other day. I think it was more so that the Anatomy 1&2 classes didn’t have to do it for their final practical under the guise of learning about the digestive tract. Because we couldn’t even take out the organs and inspect them!! I digress. We worked in groups and dissected a kidney and a whole pig. I’ll get to the scary part in a minute.

Though it sort of goes without saying these days, this post contains pictures of animals being dissected, and our pig was actually sort of cute in a sad, sad way. You’ve been warned.

Whole sheep kidney.


As you can see, we have a lot of fun with dissections these days. Our poor lab teacher. I think he really likes us but last week he was 10,000% done with us.

Midsagittal cut on kidney.

As you’re probably aware by now, the purpose of our dissections is merely to open up whatever organ we’re working on and identify structures within. The kidney is one of those organs that are very difficult to find the structures in, but you can sort of make out the triangles, and obviously the cortex. Dissections these days.

And now! On to the pig. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve dissected whole animals before, namely a cat. They come in very similar packaging: double bagged, with the inner bag filled with preservative. The pig was in formaldehyde, but our inner bag was busted and I got some on my arm. Not a very big deal, I just rinsed it off and we took our pig over to the table to commence dissection.


Crystal almost cried at her precious face. Poor thing. (The pig AND Crystal, not just one or the other.)

Trussing up the pig for dissection felt a little weird, not gonna lie.

To dissect a whole animal, you have to tie its legs to keep the chest open so you can cut into it easily. We.. named our pig Muffin. Don’t judge. Muffin was double injected with latex. Basically this means that the scientific supply company we obtained the piggies from injected latex into the blood vessels, red for arteries and blue for veins, so that it would be easy to identify them once the pig was dissected. We had double injected cats back in high school, but our teacher was mad that we couldn’t get triple injected, which I believe yellow latex injected into the lymphatic system. … But don’t quote me on that.


One of the strangest parts of dissecting the pig that I didn’t have to do when I did the cat in high school was breaking its jaw. We gave Muffin Joker cuts down to the tendons where the mandible attached to the skull. There is no way to put what we had to do next delicately: I held onto her jaw and yanked, cracking it off so we could see down her throat. I’m no pansy when it comes to stuff like that but the ensuing crunch was enough to make me jump and go “Oh!” If you’ve ever had your septum pierced or watched someone get it, the cracking noise the needle makes when it goes through? It was like that.

Look at that liver!

So this is the inside of our pig. I believe this picture was snapped after I had my little accident, otherwise known as the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me.

I was marveling at how well I was doing with the formaldehyde smell this week. For being soaked in it, the smell of the pig wasn’t nearly half as bad as I expected it to be. Plus we had to keep draining her and sopping up the fluid that was coming out of her mouth and was soaking the cavities inside. But it really wasn’t that bad! And I was sitting there, so happy, slicing and dicing and not really worrying about much.

I was working on opening the chest up a little more, cutting through the diaphragm on the sides to open up the flaps I had made, when I hit a blood vessel. Blood vessels are notoriously elastic and hard to cut, and like a moron, I didn’t decide to get the scissor but made a flicking motion with the scalpel upwards. No, I did not cut my hand open. But little bits of pig and fluid flew up onto the table, and unfortunately into my eye.

For a second I didn’t feel anything, but then I felt a pinch and a burn and I said, “Rich, I think I got formaldehyde in my eye.” My lab teacher turned around and said, “Are you okay?” At that point my eye started fluttering closed and my vision was getting blurry. Rich grabbed me and got me to run water in my eye, but I forgot about my contact for a minute until I felt it start to rip. I yanked it out and it was disintegrating on my finger. That was in my eye. I threw the contact away and kept flushing my eye until the only thing hurting it was the fact that there was water being shot into my eye. I’m essentially blind without my glasses or contacts so I didn’t know the extent of any damage until I ran back to my dorm and got my glasses. Thankfully, I was fine and I could still see just as fine as always (with my corrective lenses, of course). I went back to lab and cleaned up and all was well.

Rich called to check on me afterwards, and again on Friday, and I assured him I was fine. Though yesterday night when I tried to get my (fresh brand new, don’t worry) contact out of my left eye it gave me a little trouble, but I think it had more to do with the fact that my thumb nail broke than anything. My method of removing contact lenses is contingent on having at least a little thumbnail growth.

So lesson of the week? Wear some goggles or some damn glasses when you’re working with formaldehyde. My lab partner/partner in crime Emily told me that most funeral homes don’t allow you to wear glasses while you embalm, but I have yet to determine the voracity of that claim. Anyone know?

Special thanks to Emily for providing me with the pictures she took during lab! :] Many thanks, lovely.

I hope everyone had a lovely weekend!



~ by mementomorissa on December 9, 2012.

5 Responses to “Marissa and “The Scariest Thing That Has Ever Happened To Me During Lab””

  1. “Carol never wore her safety goggles. She said ‘YOLO’ instead.”

  2. We buy milk and eggs from a local farmer. Once we were there when his pig was having piglets. A few were stillborn, and being the weird homeschool mom that I am, I asked for one. I dissected it in the kitchen with my 11-year-old daughter using instructions I found online. Cracking the jaw was the worst, but at least there was no formaldehyde. Glad your eye is okay.

  3. Was this in just the regular anatomy class or further on in the MOS curriculum? We only did sheeps’ hearts in A&P.

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