On Thursday, we met our donors. It seemed like any class, with the lecture and preamble beforehand. Yet, there was tension in the air. The new faces of the PA and PT students served to liven up the mood, yet there was still a palpable weight. We walked slowly to see our donors, and with every step, there seemed to be a speck of sand that fell from some hourglass. We donned our personal equipment and were given the opportunity to prepare. We were asked, “Do you want to see your donor?”
We said yes, and the zippers came apart. In front of us she lay. A woman, our donor, whom we would be cutting and studying. This moment was the moment we truly understood the weight of being a medical student. Life is fragile and can be buffeted by the changes and trials of life. Its fragility is rooted in the thousands of miniscule decisions every day that can lead to the growing or end of life. Yet, life is also beautiful, and when allowed to foster and grow, with love it springs forth and becomes a miracle. It is the power of life to bring itself into being, to allow the spirit to grow, passing from person to person. Our donor is not just a cadaver or body to be cut; she is life. She had experiences, she had hopes, she had dreams, and she had a faith that her story will continue. For as we looked into her face, a final wish was made apparent, that in the swan song of her life, she will bring forth healing.
She is more than our donor, for she is a teacher, and a model for what we must remember as the individual patient. Her final choice was to give her body in the name of our future. She placed her body and her wishes in all our hands, so we will sculpt this final wish into reality, and we will cultivate our own skills to change lives. With love and care, we will become gardeners, pruning and fostering seeds of the future. The power of medicine is that our time with those we care for is sacred, for it is the moment of vulnerability that makes souls human. Connection and touch carry forward the power and vitality of spirit, and with the lessons we learn from our teacher, we can cherish the moments and become caretakers for our community.
Bidding goodbye as the zippers closed, the feelings around us had changed. We understood the impact of this gift, and we learned how much we needed to appreciate it. Chatting with the new students, a spirit of camaraderie began to fill the air, for we all stood in that same shining presence, that of our teacher. We were ready to listen.