For Museums at Night 2016, we held our first “adults only” heart dissection class. It sold out well over a month in advance, and was held at the Museums on Saturday 29th October, scarily close to Halloween for such a potentially gruesome exercise. Fortunately, no-one turned up in fancy dress. There were 2 groups for our dissection classes, keen to get started in understanding the mysteries of the heart. Having run the class a few times for children, both myself and Dr. Anna Downie, our learning officer, were slightly nervous at what the adults would make of it, but they turned up in good spirits looking to enjoy and learn.
The dissection follows the path of the blood from the venous return via the vena cava to ejection into to the systemic circulation via the aorta – ‘4 chambers, 4 blood vessels and 4 cuts’ we chanted, in the hope that alliteration would help our budding anatomists.
After showing them the first cut they returned to their own hearts and made a good job of opening the right side of the heart and things went swimmingly from there. We started to notice a difference in the number of questions compared to the children’s class.
Pathology and anatomy questions were handled by myself, and Anna, fielded questions on heart and health (living) matters. This worked out fine as Anna could answer most of the difficult questions such as ‘what causes a heart attack?’ leaving me to answer the easy anatomical ones such as ‘what is this stringy piece of gristle in the middle of my heart?’.
One notable difference from the children’s class was the time it took, which was longer in the case of the children and the greater number of questions from the adults; so no surprises. Our final demonstration, especially added for the adult class, was to show exactly how a heart attack is treated using a cardiac catheter and a stent obtained from our contacts in the Cardiology world. Many of the class commented on how much they had learned and how much they had enjoyed it. I’d like to think that many of them were no doubt visited in their dreams by a creepy voice that evening, chanting ‘4 chambers, 4 blood vessel, 4 cuts’.