A Surgeon’s Hand

The first slide of her hand was effortless, easy, done before she had thought through just how to begin. Flesh parted like rubber beneath her scalpel. Across the table, Ali breathed heavily through her nose. Tera ignored her lab mate’s distress and continued the assignment.

After another two incisions Tera peeled back the clammy square of skin with a gloved finger. Beneath, the larynx was intact. She noted the bloodless vocal folds and her mouth twitched with pleasure beneath her mask. Faced with their success, Ali stumbled away gasping.

Her lab mate wasn’t the only one experiencing problems. More than a few of the students stepped away from their own cadavers, staring upwards at the ceiling while they fought for bodily control. In the corner of the classroom, an unfortunate young man heaved the contents of his stomach into a trashcan.

Their instructor surveyed his under-performing class with a frown. No amount of encouragement returned the blanching pre-meds to their thawing assignments. He only brightened when he peered over Tera’s shoulder. “Good focus Ms. Rivera.” He nodded to her and moved to the next occupied table.

“You too Ms. Gallagher, lateral incision well done.”

Tera looked up, curious. The instructor moved on, trying to coax the retching man into the hallway. But the other student still at her cadaver, Ms. Gallagher,  met Tera’s eyes. The two shared a smile beneath their respective masks. While their classmates wrestled with churning stomachs and clammy hands, they returned to the task at hand with precision and ease.


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