Funny how, when you’ve just been all over the place with righteous rantings about animal research, it comes back to bite you in the ass. Last Thursday, we were doing the final phase of the experiment. Seven animals, injections every 30 minutes, three injections per animal. It was hectic, it all had to be very exact timewise, and guess who was appointed chief timekeeper…moi…..thanks to my new cell phone that has a digital clock display for a screensaver…yay me
I was walking around all day in a labcoat saying stuff like: ‘five minutes and counting’..and ‘in ..three…two….one….go’. I felt like one of those ladies you get in bond movies, who do the countdown to world obliteration (again)…just before Bond swings into action and saves the day..
Well there was no saving our poor labrats…I had never witnessed a perfusion before and it was surprisingly hard on me. I expected to be indifferent to the procedure since I’ve had my big yap open about it so often (this will teach me to shut up eh?). First, the rat is anesthesized with an injection of pento-barbital, after it falls over in its cage, you put it on the perfusion table. You check the anaesthesia by pinching his foot..pretty hard too…Then..while you can see the thing breathing, you have to cut his skinlayer open and remove a strip of skin from the belly..this was relatively easy..there’s no blood and gore..this is what you do when you operate. After the skin is removed, you open the cavity the organs are in, and keep opening it upwards until you get to the lung cavity, which you also cut open (cutting through some ribs) until you have access to the heart. Then comes the hardest part, (emotionally at least..practically it’s not very difficult), you hold the beating heart between your left thumb and index finger, and you push the big perfusion needle into the big, pumping left ventricle…and then quickly snip open the right atrium.
I was pretty stumped when I saw it done the first time, the sticking the needle in the beating heart part just left me gasping, and another very disturbing sight to see for the first time are the unreal jerky movements the dead rat makes when the fixative tenses up all its muscles. Gosh, I really needed some time to catch my breath and realize what the hell it was that we had just done..but no break for big-mouth Josien…..’you’re doing the next perfusion’, my supervisor smiles at me ‘don’t worry you’ll do great, it’s really easy’. Quite frankly, my doing well was the last thing I was worried about.
But I did it, and I didn’t muck it up, but it felt…I don’t know…unnatural or something…not real nice anyway..The second and third time around it got easier…but I couldn’t wait to get home and have a stiff drink..
The silly thing is..when the animal is perfused, and you’ve taken the head off (..with a guillotine..again..not nice…especially the sound) you have to take the skin and muscles off the head with some scissors and then use a thong to break the skull off little by little to get the brain out intact. This sounds really gory and horrible..but it is actually a rather detached and pretty fun job, being meticulous and neat, sort of like peeling and orange really well just for the fun of it (or am I the only one that does that?..am I?..come on..…aw man…)
So, the moral of this story is..well….I should practice shutting up a little more.. (shouts of ecstatic happiness all round)….thanks guys..
..coming up soon is an essay about how I think this world is all about perception and not truth……yeah well…autumn does that to me ok?…