There was a certain ignorance I had about the body before dissecting it. Some of what I've learned was surprising, disconcerting and fascinating:
• In one day, our kidneys filter 150 to 180 liters of blood. One kidney is only about the size of a computer mouse.
• Even if you do not smoke, your lungs will probably end up black and speckled from what you've breathed in over a lifetime.
• The aorta doesn't just serve the heart — it's the freeway of the body, running from the chest through the abdomen and down to the groin. It's big enough to fit a couple of fingers inside in some places. Unlike a freeway, it has one name that doesn't change.
• Your body gets hard when it ages. Calcifications develop in the cavity holding your lungs, coronary arteries harden and cartilage disappears, leaving rough bone in its wake.
• We have muscles tethered to the sides, tops and bottoms of our eyes. Rolling, crossing, raising and lowering our eyes comes from a perfectly coordinated contraction sequence of these muscles.
• The female urethra is very, very short. I was aware that it was only a few centimeters in length, but seeing the bladder so close to the outside world (and the anal opening) made me wonder why every woman doesn't have a permanent urinary tract infection.
• The appendix looks puny, flat and unnecessary. Since it is at the beginning of the large intestine, it gets easily infected. Appendix pain has been said to be the most agonizing pain there is.
• We have an internal apron — a layer of visceral fat, several inches thick, that hangs from our stomach. It helps protect our stomach, accessory digestive organs and small and large intestines. This is different from subcutaneous fat, which is what we usually think of when we put on weight. The female "apron" is thicker than the male's (she has more internal organs to protect), which unfortunately leaves the door wide open for sexist jokes.
Read Yurkiewicz's full story here: "A first-year student works on her first cadaver"