I am still trying to comprehend all that has happened between us in the last day. Working together in Lab D of Biology 101 has been fabulous. But I do not know what to make of what happened during the surgery. And what came after.
The rat was still breathing when I cut the carotid artery, I know that. It is amazing that the poor rat could breathe at all after we injected the Nembutal. We tried to be so organized, laying out the blunt probe, curved and straight forceps, scissors and scalpel. The surgical board was all prepared the way the instructions said. We set up the kymograph and recording level properly. The CO2 absorber pellets. Stimulator. Cannula.
You started the surgery so well! It was like we were real doctors. The anesthetist. The recorder. The assistant and head surgeon.
We fastened the drugged rat to the operating board for surgery with strings on the appendages and one on the incisors. Then we hooked the rat up to the kymograph and started recording the levels and response. All the equipment for surgery was cleaned and counted previous to the experiment. We were taking such great care to do it right.
You made the incision from the chin down the midline to the upper thorax. The skin was elevated by the assistant surgeon (that’s me!) for easier snipping. We peeled back the skin to reveal the surgical field, cleared off some tissue and the submaxillaries were layed aside for better vision of the next steps.
So far, so good. The rat seemed comfortable. Peaceful even.
You divided and separated the sternohyoideus muscles, making the trachea visible. That was our aim. We used the blunt probe and curved forceps, forcing the muscle apart. I was so amazed at how you did that! Perhaps you really will be a surgeon someday.
Then we used the curved forceps to divide the trachea and the esophagus, spreading the tips of the forceps and then the connective tissue broke. I realized we could hold the trachea aloft with the blunt probe and we placed two ligatures under the trachea. That’s how it was supposed to work. And there was no bleeding!
Then you cut the saggital opening in the trachea. I inserted the canella and tied it tightly. We snipped the ends. The rat was still breathing.
With a little difficulty we located and isolated the carotids and vagus nerves and obtained a record of normal breathing. Then we placed a balloon on the cannula and noted any effects.
When we placed the CO2 absorber pellets in the balloon, I didn’t really see any effects at first but you wrote something in your journal that I did not get down at that point. Can you share your notes with me on that? Because the lab books are due on Friday and I'd really like to get full credit on this project.
During the surgery I was watching your face out of the corner of my eye the whole time. I love how you can seem to stare without blinking when you concentrate. I wish you would look at me like that sometimes. I do think I saw that when you went down on me once. You seemed so focused. So kind. I kept thinking and thinking about how kind you are until I could not think any more. Only you can seem to take that away from me. That thinking, which is what makes me love you, Jacob.
My notes say that the CO2 in the balloon did affect the rat’s breathing adversely. It was faster somehow, and shallower. I guess the rat breathing his own air in the absence of oxygen was the cause? Is that the real reason the rat breathed harder? I'd like your perspective on this.
Sometimes I’m not sure I’m cut out for biology. It seems to come so easily to you.
That part where we stimulated the vagus nerve was strange. Why would a rat’s breathing be so affected by a stimulus like that? I guess 10 volts really is a lot to such a small creature. Anyway, I copied that chart down very carefully if you want to see my work. You were busy then trying to keep things under control and I’m not sure you made a good record of that response. I have it written down if you want it.
I guess I have to admit that it was my fault what went wrong. You let me do the part with the vagus nerve but I tied a ligature around what I thought was the nerve and it really was the carotid artery too, and it burst, didn't it? It was so embarrassing when that bright red blood came shooting out and hit the ceiling and the lab assistant had to come over to pinch off the posterior end with a forceps and clamp it with a clothespin. You looked at me so angrily. I hope I did not affect your grade in a way that might keep you out of medical school someday.
We still tested the ligatures on the other vagus nerve and snipped inbetween them. There was no response when we stimulated the posterior end of the vagus. Then we tested the anterior vagus stump and the response went flat. The rat flat-lined. We killed the rat at that point, didn’t we?
It was sad that the rat seemed to wake up for a minute before he died. He was still losing blood and shook loose from the clamp on the artery.
When it was all over we looked at the guts and they were more colorful than I ever imagined. Those red vessels ran throughout the organs, and that was what surprised me. Blood goes everywhere, doesn’t it?
We puffed up the lungs to about twice their normal size and when the heart was taken out it was still beating. So why did the rat die? It must have been the loss of blood.
So we removed the cannula and cleaned it. My notes say we never got to test the Hering-Breuer reflex? Is that going to cost us points?
Anyway, I did not think it was funny that you later removed the rat's head and stuck a carrot in its teeth and sent it into the lunch room where I was working the dish line. The poor boy next to me almost fainted. The rat’s little head seemed like it was looking at us and stuff, and people around me really freaked out. That old witch who runs the lunch room figured out the rat was intended for me and really let me have it. I was afraid I was going to get fired, and I can't afford to go to school here without my job.
So I don’t know where this leaves us as lab partners, as boyfriend and girlfriend or anything? Do you still want to go out with me, or be my lab partner in biology?
I need to know. We have biology class tomorrow. Just a lecture. But if I need a new lab partner and you want to work with that smart guy next to us in lab I’ll understand. I know grades are important to you, and I don't want to hold you back.
Anyway, the lab assistant promised that he’d help on future assignments if I needed it. He seems nice and maybe that would be better for now.
With love (and apologies to the rat)