Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Yeah Write: My Body Was a College Final


With her Cheshire cat smile already fixed and gray eyes sparkling in the way that always makes it hard for me to say “no”, my girlfriend announced,

“Finding a body for the semester final would sure score me some brownie points.”

Apparently, it’s tough competition for a spot in the Ultrasound program at our community college.

“Which body parts?” I asked anticipating the worst.

“Just your aorta, gallbladder and kidney.”

“That doesn’t sound awful. What is the proper attire for being the "final"?”

“Something comfortable. A shirt you can lift; pants you can roll down.”

I’m not modest and can generally pull off the whole confidence thing with a “Oh I’m not worried about it.” or “No problem, I’ll do it”. I never anticipated being as nervous as I was. And driving to the final I thought, “Why didn't you call on that poster at school all those years ago when the Art Department needed ‘models’?”


Arriving College of DuPage at 10:45 a.m., I was crabby (no coffee), hungry (never helps) and required to pass an organ scan by the instructors. They gave me the low down while applying cold goop to my midsection.

“Just lie there. Do what they say; they should know what to do.”

Honestly, I had butterflies but mine were no match for the apprehension with which these students approached me.

“Hi, my name is Autumn and I'll be your Ultrasound Tech today.”

Some seemed terrified, others were visibly shaking and not one exuded confidence. Their nervousness was palpable.

“Scan down the patient’s midsection transverse to the umbilicus and then to the patient’s right side. Lock on the kidney.”

And as one young man glided the probe down my middle, he headed to his right, not mine. I inconspicuously lifted my left hip rolling slightly to my right and cleared my throat. He quickly changed course. There was no way I was letting this poor, frightened boy fail if I had a say.

Some passed, others failed portions.

Some found my gallbladder (which is just below your ribcage on the right) while others locked on gas bubbles in my colon.

There were ten students in all. I knew their fate the moment they left the classroom. After cleaning off, I walked out into the hall and sensed true panic.


“We’ve got to get a “B” to be accepted.”

"I don't think I passed."

“If I don’t get into the program, I don’t know what I’ll do.”

I guess I hadn’t realized the direness of some situations. That this might be the end of the line; a true last chance before the reality of minimum wage set in. When a four-year college didn’t work out as planned, a single parent needed more than what a technical or beauty school education provided or two women (my age) needed careers later in life to support themselves.

These were real concerns, life issues, not who’d seen my belly, the bruises on my ribs from applying too much pressure or what I’d eat for lunch.

I remember the days when finals were over. It meant summertime, being carefree with “the world is my oyster” mentality.

This wasn’t that.

And I was extremely thankful I wasn’t in their shoes.

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It's been far too long since I've hung out with my pals over at Yeah Write. You know, that thing called life beckoned. Click on the badge below and check out the awesome friends I have over there. Been missin' you all!

30 comments:

  1. I remember the end of finals in college being a celebration, but by the time I got to law school, the end of finals just meant waiting for the grades that would determine whether I got a job for the summer and what that job would be. Such a huge different that you totally capture here.

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    1. I never, ever recall another time in my life when I felt so free. Law school and what was dependent upon grades would be stressful. When you are trying to get into a program at the community college, I bet you've exhausted other options. I felt bad for the anxiety they were experiencing when my only concern was soup and salad or a burger with fries.

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  2. What a perspective shift! I've had a few moments like that myself...

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    1. It's been a long time since I've seen such nervousness expressed. It was a all pretty serious. And I was nervous for each one of them because I knew the answers and couldn't help.

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  3. What an interesting perspective. I never thought about the fact that such finals exist. Of course, I'm glad they do.
    Thanks for sharing and glad to see you on the grid this week.

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    1. I'm sure all medical classes of a practical nature rely on real life "guinea pigs". Thanks for the welcome back. Just temporary, I'm afraid.

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  4. It's been to long for me too! I thought of linking up today, but thought it was too late! I enjoyed this story, reminded of all my husband's med school finals! :)

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    1. I've wondered where you've been. I, too, think about it later in the week then never get something together. I'm Doc H went through many, many more practical exams which were intensely difficult.

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  5. Fun story. How great that you provided a "body" for your friend and got to experience something really unique.

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    1. I usually don't say no to her and she is well aware of her power over me. I was happy to help her. She needs this program to work out for her. Thanks for likeing it, psychochef!

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  6. what a good friend, getting all gooped up to help out. finding out whether you passed or failed is always tough, but i'd like to hope that the person wielding the wand over my parts actually know what they are doing.

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    1. More goop than I have ever been slimed with before and I've had my share of ultrasounds. Each student wanted to put more on until the instructors came to my rescue saying, "She has enough on her." Weird feeling! When I walked into the hall, they knew I probably knew but never asked my what the instructors said about them. I think it takes practice. After ten, I was fully aware of where my kidney, gallbladder and aorta were located and what they looked like. I could have passed the test at the end of the day.

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  7. I was worried that you had to have a full bladder for this, and I was thinking how could she do that for a bunch of students taking their finals??? So thank goodness for that.

    That was so nice of you to help that male student :) Hopefully things turned out well for all of them in the end.

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    1. I have had the ultrasounds with a full bladder. This required extremely empty, nothing from midnight on and when the final ran from 11:00-1:00, my stomach was talking big time. The worst part was refraining from coffee.

      I felt bad for him because he was especially nervous. I have no idea what the outcomes were. My friend passed so that makes me very happy.

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  8. I went through Physical Therapy and then Orthopedic finals this way. They were so freaking stressful and trying to find someone to be a patient was often close to impossible if they had to strip down or something. Cadaver finals were easier believe it or not...no one complains.

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    1. I bet you did a whole LOT of practical testing. I guess it would be hard to find someone willing to lie there for that long. I wasn't concerned about exposure because I knew which organs they needed to scan. I guess have your entire midsection exposed might freak some people out. It was just cold and I covered up in between students for warmth. Ah, cadavers...

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  9. Soooooooooo glad to be done with school :) It really was stressful. I supervise interns and they are always so nervous.

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    1. Me toooooo! Although, I'd love to go back for some fun and interesting classes but none that would impact my career (not at this point). I bet you see their nerves then. It made me a little uncomfortable because they were like "I know this. Why couldn't I find it?"

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  10. Kellie was her brother's victim, I mean patient, for his dentistry final. I think that entitles her to free lifetime dental care. So I guess you get free ultrasounds for life.

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    1. There is definitely a benefit for a free lifetime of dental care. I'm not so sure about ultrasound scanning.

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  11. Oh yeah. I worked with a woman at a grocery store. She was so damned smart. But she had test anxiety. And she failed her final in LPN school, and she wouldn't (emotionally, perhaps, couldn't) go back and start over. So she's still an aide twenty years later, which is sad.

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    1. Nothing worse than test anxiety because, like her, even the smartest person in the world experiencing that wouldn't be able to get the knowledge out. That is extremely sad for her.

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  12. Now that you said it, I am more than glad that I am not in their shoes. Hate the make or break situations and when I look back now I wonder how I dealt with mine. Very thoughtful post there. :)

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    1. That's a perfect way to put it. It seemed "make it or break it" for them, in my opinion and some even said it after the test. I've had a few moments where I felt like this (mostly when I was a lot younger) and they are intensely stressful and scary.

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  13. Oh, man, the perspective that age adds to these situations... Responsibility stinks...

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    1. And knowing the feeling of stability. It's scary to realize your future is so unsure.

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  14. What a neat experience to add to your bag! Do you have "ultrasound model" on your business cards? :)

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    1. Funny! The things you do as favors for friends. It was an interesting experience.

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  15. This is a really interesting experience! I think it's great that you did it, and those students were fortunate to have a supportive "patient"for their practical exam.

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