Silly Cartoon Appreciation Post

It’s only a short update I’m afraid today as I feel more obliged to write this than actually have a plan as to what I’m writing! This is possibly the longest unplanned break between blog posts that I’ve had in the whole time I’ve had this blog and it was completely unintentional. However it is a true way of knowing that I’ve just been running myself into the ground recently!

Work has been very eventful, too much going on to even mention it all! I had a huge opportunity to watch something we rarely get to see on Friday that I will write about once I have time to do it justice. One thing I would like to say is that I’ve never been prouder or happier of my team and what we’ve accomplished of late. I really do think we work together really well, and I’m feeling a little confidence boost after some excellent feedback that myself and my colleague, who is the other trainee, received from one of our pathologists. We’re going from strength to strength each week but I think it’s been noticeable in the past month or so just how far we’ve come.

Very appreciative of a bacteriophage chasing a bacteria saying Pew!

I’ll finish with a little note about my revision as it needs to be my main focus for the next two weeks and I’m feeling the pressure now. That as well as finishing my assignments which are in about their third draft and finally with my manager to review. I’ve found in the last day that there are some excellent YouTube videos out there that are right up my street with silly cartoons that I’m certain will help me remember stuff. I just wanted to mention The Amoeba Sisters because I discovered them and they’re awesome. Check them out!

Poor screen photo apologies but find their videos at The Amoeba Sisters

MG x

100 Brains & Counting

In my around 18 months of being a trainee I have now reached my next milestone of 100 brains removed! That means I’ve roughly done slightly less than that in eviscerations I would imagine, as sometimes I have been in the post mortem room and assisted others by just ‘doing the heads’ as we call it. I’m really chuffed that I kept this count and that I’ve got there, it feels good to know. Plus I told the trainee Neuro pathologist who’s been working with us and he said he has done six! I said I just need to get working on what the parts are called now because he puts me to shame naming each and every part, and some bits I really have no idea. I thought it might be a good time to explore the parts of the base of the brain that I’ve learnt so far and what they do.

I don’t think I would ever remember all of that, but here’s an example of how much you could learn!

The brain itself sits in the skull within the meninges, the thick layer outside of the brain but inside the skull is the dura mater. Sometimes this is stuck to the inside of the skull and difficult to remove, other times it can be free. I need to work on getting better at leaving it intact when opening the skull as I often saw through it. I think this is a combination of becoming used to the feeling of the saw but also recognising the differing thickness of skulls. I always think some people must have really heavy heads because the skulls are so thick!

The base of the brain is where the structures that connect to other parts of the body sit. There’s vessels to feed blood to the brain, nerves that shoot off to all the parts of the body too including the spinal cord which is thick and that we disconnect last in order to remove the brain. That’s the bits I know. The only other bit I can name is the rather fancily called Circle of Willis which is a structure of blood vessels at the base of the brain. Sometimes you can identify parts of this that are hard and not working as they should, they are atherosclerotic where there has been a build up in the vessels. It’s taken me a long time to learn how to spell that word, after several times it being spelt letter by letter by the pathologist as I do her notes.

I always think it looks like a little stickman a bit… The Circle of Willis!

The first part of the brain we disconnect as such is the nerves that go to the back of the eyes known as the optic nerves. Once we pull back the front of the brain, just underneath you can see two little white connections that we sever. We work downwards, carefully pulling back the brain and disconnecting the nerves there. The cerebellum, the back of the base of the brain is actually tucked up in a bit more of the dura mater that we have to cut through to remove. Once this is free, we cut down into where the spinal cord has come through, and then can support the top of the brain while scooping out the cerebellum. You then are holding a human brain!

We would, of course, stop at any point if we see anything significant that we might need to note and make the pathologist aware of. This could include any signs of infections, bleeds or other odd things we might not immediately recognise. It takes time to know what is normal and what is not but I’m fairly confident at completing this now.

I hope I’ve explained that fairly well, but if you have any question get in touch, and please bear in mind this is definitely a do not try this at home kind of situation!!

MG x

What’s My Age Again?

As time flies by, I seem to be hurtling towards my 32nd birthday with increasing speed. While I was driving home the other day, What’s My Age Again by Blink 182 came on the radio and it got me thinking. There’s a line ‘Nobody loves you when you’re 23’ and I distinctly remember hearing that line being younger than 23 thinking it was a long way off, now I’m nearly ten years beyond that.

I’m only as old as I feel, and that changes on a daily basis

Age is a funny thing. They say you’re as old as you feel, some days I feel young and incapable of adulthood and others I feel tired and old like I’m beyond my finest years. In 2019, I can expect to live an average of around 84 years as a woman, in comparison in the Victorian era that could have been halved. In the 1200s in the UK I could be expected to already be dead with a life expectancy a little over 31. Only a few decades ago to reach 60 or 70 would seem a fair innings but now we consider this dying young especially with the raising national retirement age. Perspective on life expectancy has changed with many things not restricted to changes in health care, improved living conditions and better awareness of our health.

With all this in mind, it’s still not unusual to see people come into work who are younger than me, or even around my age. I think, for some reason, when I see 1987 on a date of birth it hits home the most. The sad truth is, people die at any age. An average comes with huge outliers in the statistics, those dying in childhood and those living beyond 100. It’s not something we know at all, as much as we don’t know how we will die we have no idea how old we will be. We never know how long is remaining on our lives, and I think wondering about it or knowing for a fact would only drive us insane.

If this has made you think, why not pop along to a Death Cafe? You can find your nearest at DeathCafe.com

My point in writing this was just to say one thing, while we obsess over age and how old we are, it does no good in helping us live our lives to the best they can be. Nothing can be truer of this than when people remind me that I’m in my thirties now so I should be prioritising having children if I want them because my ageing body is only getting worse at conceiving and carrying children as it slowly declines towards middle age. Remember that things just happen when they do. As a control freak I don’t like this, but it serves me much better to think it’s out of my control than to try and do anything about it. What I can control are my emotions around it, and try to not feel negatively regarding the fact.

MG x

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