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The Story of Rocco

The Story of Rocco
In the first year of medical school, you have to get used to not sleeping very much. You also have to get used to taking your clothes off to practice exams, and there is of course the dreaded cadaver lab.
Is all you are told is the age and possibly cause of death for a patient. In fact, we were able to figure out in one body that he had a heart valve that was faulty and that possibly could have killed him. It was strange in the beginning to see painted fingernails or tattoos because this made them seem as if they had stories and you truly wanted to know what their life had been like.
Why did they make the choice to donate their body?
What stories did they have?
Ours was a man 63 years young,who we named Rocco. We spent a lot of hours a week doing dissection and learning,so we thought we should honor him with a name. Rocco provided us with a great amount of knowledge about the human body over the next 9 months. Some weeks if you were stressed out, it was difficult to go into the lab. We were still dealing with humans who had passed on. One classmate really struggled in the lab after loosing her grandmother. It was easier to do the work in the beginning if you didn’t think of them as human. And, over time, as you got used to the idea, it became easier to think of them as human. It became easier for me to connect with the human in a way of appreciation. He had voluntarily given up his after-life body for us to learn from. In many ways medicine would not have advanced without these generous people (though there are many that gave their body without knowing it sadly). At the end of the year, we did a thank you ceremony for the cadavers. Our cadavers came from an ethical program in which the bodies we re returned to the family at the end. We had a heartfelt goodbye and thank you. It truly was such a wonderful gift that all those cadavers provided us in death. I occasionally still think of Rocco as I am visualizing the human body and still send him thanks, wherever he may be. What has been beneficial to your learning?


  1. Jane Armstrong  /  July 25, 2014 at 3:42 am Reply

    Great story Casey. Thank you for sharing.

  2. So cool!!!! I love that you are grateful!!


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