Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Trying to Get a Leg Up

This post may make you uncomfortable.  You’ve been warned…

Last night I found myself leaving work after a 13 hour shift that I originally thought was going to be a normal 8 hour day.  This has become a normal occurrence for me at work – partially because I like my job and partially because it’s healthier than going home and being a bum.  I’m not talking about the kind of bum that lies on a couch, sleeps, and eats.  I’m talking about the kind of bum that gets home, throws belongings randomly in places they don’t belong, cooks but doesn’t do the dishes, parties but doesn’t clean up the mess, and other general irresponsible habits I picked up from college – I love being a young professional but I’m pretty sure I can’t count myself as one because of my lifestyle.  Have no fear, though, I choose this path every day I decide to be a bum and I am thoroughly enjoying it, save for those one or two days a month where my housemate and I decide that we live in such filth that it is time to organize everything and deck-scrub the floors.  Anyhow this post is supposed to be about work so let me get back to the task.

So I get home from work last night with just enough time to make a rapid dinner (barbecued chicken and mixed vegetables), practice playing beer pong for an upcoming tournament (I did tell you I was irresponsible, right?  Well I’m not – I practiced with water…. ;-)   ), and get to sleep in time to wake up early for work.  I did not, however, have time to reflect on the last hour-and-a-half of work.  The end of my work day yesterday adequately describes why I love my job, why I am weird (or at least one reason), and why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Yesterday I volunteered (why I can’t complain about long hours) to help a coworker get a cadaver leg scanned.  Oh yeah, I just realized that I haven’t yet told you all that I work with cadavers all day.  That’s right folks, DEAD PEOPLE.  Fortunately I don’t deal with whole people and have to experience the emotions attached to that.  Unfortunately that means I get parts to deal with.  I’m currently working on 3 knee projects (meaning that I see a lot of dead legs), an elbow project, and an index finger project.  The job is definitely not for the queasy as it often involves pushing or pulling on these parts with mechanical testing machines, performing dissections, drilling holes, and, sometimes, breaking bones. So yesterday I had a whole leg to work with – we’re talking femoral head (the part of your leg that inserts into your hip socket) all the way down to and including the foot.  This 20 lb leg was strapped to two 2x4s; one was short to hold the foot at 90 degrees to the leg and the other was a bit longer than the length of the leg.  CT scanning for specimens doesn’t happen in the building I work on, meaning that the leg has to be transported up 2 blocks in the Upper East Side in Manhattan, New York.  To paint the mental picture here, imagine a leg-sized cardboard box stuffed with a leg and styrofoam jammed into a long duffel bag and then slung over my shoulder like I’m carrying a circus tent.  I proceeded down the elevator and out into the crazy world that is New York City.  Wall-to-wall traffic, pedestrians covering the sidewalk, dog walkers, joggers, and the elderly all stood a good chance of bumping into me and this unshapely package I was carrying.  I was a tad nervous about the strap breaking followed by the zipper popping followed by the cardboard giving-way to the leg as it crashed onto the sidewalk with a wet thud - but that never happened.  So I got the leg to its destination – a 2 million dollar imaging machine that took 1,164 images in less than 2 minutes, giving me a digital 3D xray of the leg and internal parts with a resolution on the order of .01mm (10 microns to those in the know).

So next time you see someone walking on the Upper East Side with a large container be sure to steer clear.  You never know what surprises may await!