Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Horse Leg Redux: Cadaverous

Further to my previous post--and egged on by my friend Stefanie, the artistic, cultural & now literary doyenne of Schuyler, VA--I sent Dr E the following message:

Inquiring minds want to know:

  1. Did you often cut off horse legs?
  2. Why must the legs be put outside to "weather"?
  3. Most important: Are there many more in the backyard?
Under the header "Cadaverous," she responded:

Well, Bella, it goes something like this:

In human surgery, rubber cadavers are made to hone stereoscopic skills like arthroscopy. No such luck in equine field. As such, to hone and retain skills, cadaver limbs can be harvested off horses that have died for other reasons. They are typically frozen and then thawed for practice.

I thawed this limb for practice but made the mistake of doing so on a weekend when I was on call. I got called in repeatedly and as such the limb was past its best, so I decided that it would not go to waste if I allowed time and microbes to ravage the soft tissue, leaving me with a nice anatomic specimen that could then be further cleaned (with acetone etc. to de-grease). Such specimens are helpful when explaining to a client a problem with a structure in the limb, since the anatomy is so different from a human.

I am completely at a loss as to whether there would be another limb. I never thawed more than two at a time, and in the majority of instances it was one at a time only due to time constraints. The only consolation I offer you is that the extreme length of time and overwintering the bones have encountered will render them no more noxious that digging in the garden.

I trust that satisfactorily answers your questions. I was talking to a friend and expressing amazement that you had a blog. We then discussed how amazing it is that we become so familiar with various things in our lives (like the use of cadaver tissue for learning) that it becomes part of our 'normal' and that we fail to recognize how bizarre it is in someone else's 'reality'!!!

As my uncle would have said--all a matter of perspective--his famous example being: "The grass is greener on the other side of the fence due to the palisade effect and does not look so green when you look down at your feet and see a mixture of brown earth and green stems!!!!"

Murder mystery writers may be interested to know that the horse leg in question still has some hair on it and is a bit smelly. Hence I covered it with more leaves, capped by a large stone to deter critters. And just in case Dr E's memory is faulty, I'm not doing any more digging in the 3-foot strip between the stone wall and back fence.

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