Uncategorized, wellness

Wellness Wednesday: Bodies Alive

Today’s Wellness Wednesday is a little different than usual. While we’ll still be talking about the human body, it’s not in the way you may be expecting.

This Sunday I was at the Museum of Science in Boston/Cambridge (the museum is actually split between Boston and Cambridge) and I got to see the Body World exhibit and it was amazing!

I went to see Bodies: The Exhibition when I took anatomy in high school and now that I have taken two more years of anatomy I feel like my appreciation for the human body and traveling exhibitions has only grown.

One thing that really amazed me about Body Worlds was that it was educational beyond just the bodies. They had rooms dedicated to different body systems and would include education about how to remain healthy through diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices in each section. As someone who just learned about workplace ergonomics one of my favorite parts was the video about adjusting posture while sitting at a desk and a model about proper lifting technique. I may be on summer break but it was a great way to review some key concepts from last semester!

A section on cataracts. I had no idea Monet and Degas both had problems with vision and it was interesting to see what they saw vs what they painted.

My favorite part of the exhibit besides being able to look at the bodies was the section on centenarians. Body Worlds featured a few people who have made it to 100 years old and had them speak about their lifestyles. While diet and exercise was mentioned, they centenarians also talked about their role in society. One woman discussed how important it was for her to be able to still be an active participant in her life, she still volunteers in her community and spends time with friends and family.

I had to feature this one on the blog! Mobility is medicine!

When you leave Body Worlds you can pick up a chip and pledge to make a lifestyle choice that will improve your quality of life. I was happy to see “exercise more” had a ton of pledges but since mental health is just as important as physical health, I pledged to stress less.

“Eat less sugar” was another popular one and if we weren’t in peak ice cream eating season I may have put my chip there…

But let’s get to the good stuff! The bodies! They are preserved through a process called Plastination and were absolutely amazing. It’s no secret I am a huge nerd when it comes to this kind of thing but they were breathtaking. You could see each of the muscles so clearly and the bodies were posed in such interesting ways, I could go on and on.

It wasn’t just the bodies that were on display, they had the nervous system and plastic replicas of the heart and all of it’s arteries and veins. The nervous system had to be the wildest thing for me because I was able to just stare at the brachial plexus I had learned about in class and look at in our cadavers but there it was laid out in front of me connected to all of the other nerves in the body.

I know not everyone may want to actually see the bodies so here is your warning: the donors are below!!

Could you imagine being the person to set this up?

That’s it for my review of the exhibit itself but I encourage you to keep reading below and learn about how these companies get the bodies. It’s an important discussion to have so let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Something important to keep in mind when looking into these types of exhibits: where the donors come from. In our anatomy class our professor mentioned that while these traveling exhibits are informative they don’t always get their bodies in the right way. Body Worlds’ donors come from people in Europe and the United States who have agreed to donating their bodies to medical students and the general public to learn from. Body Worlds is even stricter with their donations now after discovering some of their bodies were coming from Russian human trafficking rings. In an interview with NPR the founder of Body Worlds said, “What I certainly never use for public exhibitions are unclaimed bodies, prisoners, bodies from mental institutions and executed prisoners.” The key phrase here is public exhibitions. The founder of Body Worlds has admitted to selling unclaimed bodies for educational purposes. These bodies come from Chinese medical schools and have no written confirmation.

Bodies: The Exhibition is another story. The spokesperson for the company openly admits the bodies on display are unclaimed. The founder of this traveling cadaver company used to work with Body Worlds and then created a rival. This is the exhibition I had seen in high school and while it was one of my favorite field trips I had ever gone on, knowing that these bodies may not have been acquired in an ethical manner makes me cringe. But at least they are honest about not being able to verify who was donated to them.

So what can you do with this information? Weigh the options. Both companies have some shady deals going on, whether it’s the bodies they display publicly or sell to medical schools they both obtain bodies in an unethical way. If this is something you are really interested in seeing you just have to decide if you’d rather look at the bodies that were donated or if you are okay with seeing bodies who were not willing but the company is upfront about the means of getting them.

All of the information on donors to Body Worlds and Bodies: The Exhibition came from two NPR articles from 2006. While it is older information, this is the most trustworthy website I could come across.

I’m a huge quote person so I loved that there were quotes about life scattered throughout Body Worlds.

That’s all I have for you this Wednesday! Stay tuned next week for a more traditional Wellness Wednesday post!

xox,

Marissa

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Uncategorized

What I’m Reading: Stiff

The first book I finished in 2019 was Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach and I have to say it was slightly disappointing. I was so excited to read this one as I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from cadavers in my anatomy lab and it didn’t live up to my expectations. This was the non-fiction book I selected for my book club and luckily they picked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine instead, I may not have been allowed to choose another book.

Before I get into the book itself, I’ll explain what I was looking for. Retrospectively, my expectations are kind of unrealistic. I was looking for the backstory to Gail, Ruth, Richard, or Robert- the cadavers we see in class. I wanted a book that gave me the backstory of how a librarian becomes a cadaver. The story of how the charter boat captain with PAD found his way into my anatomy lab. I wanted the biography of someone who I don’t even know their real name (we only use first names to protect their identity). I wanted to learn how they were embalmed, wound up at the medical school and then transported to my school. Although I have asked my anatomy professor and she said the two bodies that are new this semester were dropped off while we were all in class his summer! So you see, my expectations were slightly unrealistic and now I’ll get into the actual book.

There were parts that really intrigued me but there were parts that I wanted to skip over completely.

Here are the topics that fascinated me:

  • The first chapter started out really strong: the use of cadavers so that surgeons can practice their skills. I found this section particularly interesting because it surrounded plastic surgery and using cadaver heads. This was particularly interesting to me because we cover the head all year. I love anatomy lab but I think I would feel very differently if we dissected this part.
  • Later in the book it talked about crucifixion experiments. I found this chapter intriguing because it talked about the physics and physiology of crucifixion. There have been multiple people that have studied the nail placement and this chapter was a quick look into the research that has been done using cadaver arms as well as the living.

The topics that were interesting but went on for too long:

  • The use of cadavers as crash test dummies. The Test Track dummies you find in Epcot are used along with cadavers to make sure your car has a high vehicle safety rating. I’m not even going to hide the fact that Test Track is the reason I was interested in this section at all. I imagined all of the impact testing that use to be featured in the queue line and replaced the dummies with cadavers.
  • This is another one that had never crossed my mind: using cadavers to analyze a crash site. The bodies at the site of a wreck can give you as much information as the black box can. The most interesting thing from this section in my opinion: bodies found in the water.

The topics that I really could have lived without:

  • Army tests in cadavers. Don’t get me wrong I think this is very important research that needs to be done but even though I read this chapter yesterday I couldn’t tell you too much about it. This is another thing I didn’t even know you could use cadavers for and although it’s an interesting concept I didn’t retain anything.
  • Cannibalism for wellness. I don’t even think I need to expand on this one.

So if you’re looking for the story of Gail, Ruth, Richard, or Robert… this isn’t the book for you. There are still six topics left to be discovered in this book and I suggest you go for the topics that interest you. I personally felt that this book took me forever to get through and I would have enjoyed it more if I read the parts that intrigued me and skipped over the extra ten pages on crash test dummies.

While this wasn’t one of my favorite reads I am glad I read it as it expanded my view of cadavers. Going into this read my only knowledge of them was being wheeled out of a freezer and peeling the skin back to pin muscles but now I can appreciate more areas of science that I didn’t know existed.

A question you may be asking is will I do it? This is a question that Roach answered in her book and I thought it would be fitting to share my point of view. Nope. Probably not. Once you donate your body to science there are a number of places you could end up. While I’ve benefitted from dissection in anatomy lab and plasticized brain tissues in my neuro lab, I wouldn’t want the Mark Sloan’s of the world practicing their Botox skills on me. And I’ve learned from this book that while I could mark off certain things I wouldn’t want to end up doing there’s no guarantee some future PT would learn about the origins and insertions of all the muscles from me and that’s the thing I would want the most. But sign me up for organ donation… in fact I just donated blood today!

Happy reading! Let me know what’s on your to be read shelf in the comments!

xox,

Marissa