The Scalpel

The most interesting part of 1st MBBS course is dissection.You’ll be provided with a Cadaver ( a dead body intended for dissection) and you have to dissect the concerned region and identify the structures( blood vessels, nerves, organs) you are supposed to see. At the dissection hall, MBBS students use a dissection set which should contain at least a scalpel, toothed forceps, toothless forceps and a blunt knife.Dissection is a kind of dress rehearsal for a surgery.
Today’s hero is the scalpel.The scalpel is a wonderful tool, a type 3 lever. It is not for pressing. It is for drawing across the field of skin. I always marvel at its power- cold, gleaming and silent. The scalpel is held in a special way, not palmed, nor gripped, nor grasped but lightly with the tips of the fingers- like holding the bow of a violin or a tulip. In a living body, blood chases the scalpel wherever it is withdrawn, but on a Cadaver, it is safe and easy to use it as it does not bleed.
The scalpel is made of steel. It is in two parts- the handle and the blade. At one end of the handle is a narrow prong upon which the blade is slid and then snapped to place. The handle is blind and decapitated without the blade, but once the blade is slid on it and clicked to position, it is ready for use. The spent scalpel sits silently on the dissection table once its purpose is done.
I encounter a curious problem while fixing the blade on the handle. Every time I fix it, the sharp end of the blade would be pressed on my thumb. A thin streak of blood and a cut on my thumb would be the result. So, you could tell how many blades I fixed that week, just by counting the number of line-like wounds on my left thumb.
I share my dissection table with a girl who is very enthusiastic about dissection. She knows the tips and tricks which one could gain only by experience. I love working with her because she finishes dissection within minutes, which would otherwise have taken hours. The saved time could be productively used for chit- chatting, or in my case, writing this blog post.
One day I saw this girl fixing her blade with ease. She simply slid the blade around the handle and pressed it. Click! it stood at the right place.No hurt.
“Wow..How do you do that ?”, I exclaimed, open mouthed.
“Figure it out” was the answer.
So the next day I bought two new blades and started practising to fix it the way my skilled friend did. It was amusing for the other dissectors to watch me sitting at a corner of the hall and fixing blades while they prepared for the spotting exam. Some of the dissectors were kind enough to offer me their blade and handle to work upon. My skilled friend was trying hard to stifle her laugh while she unearthed every damn nerve and vessel I had no idea of. I went about with this business for about a week during every dissection hour until my thumb became absolutely raw.
Finally I couldn’t take it any longer.I approached my skilled friend and said, ” I give up.How the hell you fix the blade without hurting your thumb?”
Her answer was interesting- “Who said it doesn’t hurt? It hurts me too..” and showed me two thin parallel streaks of wound on her right thumb.