Tag Archives: zombies

Medical Microfiction: Terminologia Anatomica

Dr. Howell tapped twice on a white band of ligament, directing his students’ attention to the cadaver’s belly. “The abdominal aponeurosis. Covers the rectus abdominis and compresses the viscera.”

Pencils scribbled. Heads bobbed.

“Moving on… Larry, switch to a deep view, please.”

“Sure thing, Doc!” With both hands the cadaver wrenched back another layer of muscle, exposing his innards.

“Note the positions of the internal viscera,” Dr. Howell continued. “The large intestine is especially good eating on a live human. People make a big deal out of the brains, but I say go straight for the guts. Less competition.’

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Steaks on a grill
Your organs from a zombie’s perspective.

I think lots of people could benefit from learning more about human anatomy – I’m writing this blog, after all! – but no one could benefit more than our friends the zombies. I mean, if you’re going to spend your days hunting down tasty, tasty humans, you could save yourself a lot of time and effort on the eating if you know how to bypass that pesky ribcage to get to the tasty bits within.

Terminologia Anatomica, which literally means “Anatomical Terminology,” is the book that sets the international standards for medical terminology. It’s where many of the definitions on this blog came from. This illustrious volume was published in 1998, and has allowed countless students, medical professionals, and amateur writers to confuse the general public when we say things like, “Serratus anterior’s assisting the external intercostals in respiration by forcing air through the larynx and causing the vocal folds to oscillate, producing phonation.”

Yeah. We talk real good.

Happy Friday, wherever and whenever this finds you! It’s been a good week here in the Jones household, as my mother-in-law received a long-awaited kidney transplant just two days ago and is recovering nicely. Organ donation saves lives, folks, and if you’re not already a donor, I’d encourage you to join up.

Otherwise, the zombies’ll get you.

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Medical Microfiction: Necrophagous

The Humans Bite Back

Life sucked for the survivors of the zombie apocalypse. First they ran out of fresh vegetables, then the non-perishables dwindled. When they got down to Ramen noodles and Twinkies, they turned to cannibalism, because nobody wants to eat that crap.

In retrospect, someone inevitably had to try it. But when the first survivor fried up a zombie steak, everyone was astounded by how darn good it tasted. We’re talking bacon-wrapped shrimp levels of tastiness!

That solved the zombie problem but introduced a new one: once you’ve eaten something that delicious, how do you ever go back to bland old bacon?

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English: Uncooked pork belly bacon strips disp...
Bacon: the King of Foods, at least until you try zombie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Necrophagous is a word that means feeding on corpses or dead matter. Generally in nature, this refers to scavengers such as vultures or hyenas. They’re nature’s recyclers, helpfully cleaning up dead creatures that would otherwise just spread disease.

This story’s about another kind of recycling. Jason calls this concept “reverse zombies:” the humans eat the zombies. It’s fun that the humans have become a different kind of manic, flesh-eating beast by the end of the story. I like this idea, although thinking about the mechanics of it all is giving me a headache. In a zombie situation, I’d personally be wary of trying zombie meat not just because of the cannibalism aspect, but because of fear of getting the virus myself.

Depending on how the zombie virus behaved, it’s theoretically possible that it might pass through your digestive tract harmlessly. Zombie bites suggest transmission through infected saliva; perhaps the rest of that sucker is fine dining! I know there are some diseases that operate this way, but I’m drawing a blank this morning. Can you think of an example of something harmless to the digestive tract that would be harmful if exposed to the bloodstream? (Edit: EvolGeneius says the substance we’re looking for is venom! Check the comments for the fantastic explanation). I think the HIV virus might fit the bill, but don’t quote me on that.

In case of a zombie apocalypse, what’s your plan for keeping the food supply up? Are you willing to dip into the dreaded Twinkies and Ramen?

Medical Microfiction: Metastasize

Scatterbrains

“Let’s build it in Kansas,” they said! “It’s the middle of nowhere,” they said!

Some geniuses they turned out to be. Sure, it’s isolated. I’ll give you that. If you’re going to build Area 52, what better place than the most boring stretch of farmland in America?

But really, it’s Kansas. Didn’t anyone consider the weather?

They built it anyway. Two months after the ribbon-cutting ceremony, an EF4-level tornado made short work of the holding pen roof, sending all the test subjects spiraling into the funnel.

The apocalypse began two hours later, when 500 angry zombies rained down on Wichita.

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Today’s story illustrates the word metastasize, which describes the spread of a cancer from one organ or location to another one. Cancer’s a frequent topic here at Medical Microfiction because it’s a disease that may touch all of our lives at some point, whether it touches one of us directly or a loved one. We find it in our deepest fears and embedded in our books and movies.

Although we hear about cancer often, it’s rare that anyone bothers to explain how cancer works, its treatments, and the words used to discuss it. This is a problem because the unknown holds greater power over us than the known. We’re afraid of the monster under the bed.

In the past, I’ve written about leukemia, bone marrow donation, and graft-versus-host disease to  help clear the waters. Today we turn our attention to a general concept related to cancer: metastasis.

English: The Hesston, Kansas tornado of March ...
The ultimate zombie-dispersal mechanism. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To explain it, let’s take breast cancer as an example. It begins when cells in the breast tissue multiply at an abnormal rate. These cells create the stereotypical “lump” in the breast that’s the first tip-off that you’ve got a problem. That’s bad. Metastasis ups the ante. Cells from the cancerous tumor break off into the bloodstream or lymphatic system and use them as highways to spread to other parts of the body. What was once just breast cancer is now also liver cancer or bone cancer.

Think of this process like the zombies in today’s story. As long as the zombies are contained to Area 52, you’ve got a lid on the problem. They’re easy to exterminate. But when the zombies take to the sky and rain down all over Kansas, it’s going to be much, much harder to control the outbreak. The zombies have metastasized.

Explains my recurring zombie nightmares, I suppose.

Monsters Inc
What does the monster under your bed look like? (Photo credit: Cyberslayer)

I know cancer isn’t the most cheerful of topics, but I want to demystify it so that you know exactly what the invisible fear looks like. I’m shining a flashlight under the bed. The monster may be there, but once you see it, you know exactly what you’re dealing with, and you can pick the right tools to combat it. Maybe it’s a little smaller, a little less scary than you expected.

For anyone interested in the practical approach, remember that you can personally become a cancer-slaying zombie hunter by joining the Bone Marrow Registry. I mention this program a lot on my blog because it’s both an easy and practical way to do something. Each of us has within our own bodies the potential to be someone’s unique cure for cancer, but there’s no way you’d know it unless you sign up.

What sorts of things scare you? Do you think the unknown is scarier than the known?

Medical Microfiction: Rigor Mortis

“I’ll Explain It One More Time”

“So you see, Honey, zombies just wouldn’t work in the real world,” Jason explained. “Dying cells flood your muscle fibers with calcium ions, causing myosin-actin cross-bridging, which makes all your muscles contract at once. Y’know, rigor mortis. Without ATP, your muscles can’t unclench, and of course a dead body doesn’t make ATP. When your muscles finally start to relax, that’s because the myofilaments are decaying, and by that point you won’t exactly be able to chase anyone for their brains, will you?”

“GRAAAAAAAHH,” his wife moaned, clawing at him as she strained against the ropes holding her to the shed.

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English: Biohazard Placard
English: Biohazard Placard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband and I had a discussion similar to this conversation, so I promised to immortalize him in this Drabble. Of course, this is entirely a work of fiction, firstly because you can guess who REALLY explained myosin-actin crossbridging, and secondly because the real Jason and I have a longstanding pact to put each other down if one of us gets zombified.

That’s true love, folks.

In the meantime, fictional Jason did a dandy job explaining today’s medical term, rigor mortis. Calcium signals the first step in muscle contraction. Usually your body keeps that calcium stowed away inside cells and carefully controls its release, but in death, cell walls explode willy-nilly, causing calcium to flood your system. Jason and I agree that this should logically prevent any would-be zombie from doing much of anything except staring longingly at your retreating brain. But Jason also pointed out that while this nixes “science zombies”, it doesn’t rule out “magic zombies”, which would of course be animated by a mysterious blue glow, thus avoiding the whole calcium problem.

So there you have it: when the zombie apocalypse happens, don’t look to the CDC for answers. Look to Hogwarts.

Since I live a short drive away from the locations featured in The Walking Dead, I know what NOT to do to survive a zombie apocalypse in Georgia. But there’s always the chance I’ll be traveling when it happens. So I want to hear about your zombie escape plan! Tell me about it in the comments section below.

Medical Microfiction: Necrogenous

“Zombie Appleseed”

A bird must’ve crapped that appleseed onto the moist, organic matter of his rotting brain. It took root, nurtured by the sun and the putrid decaying tissue of Johnny’s body. Soon it blossomed into a fine apple tree. You couldn’t tell where the tree ended and Johnny began!

He shambled westward, scattering apples behind him. When he reached Boise, we whooped and broke out the cider press. Time to get drunk again!

Usually we brained zombies, but Johnny produced the finest cider ever made by a human mind. So we set him free.

Anyway, sorry about the outbreak in Sacramento.

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English: Drawing of Jonathan Chapman, aka John...
English: Drawing of Jonathan Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Necrogenous” means originating in dead or decaying matter. In a medical sense, this is nothing but bad news. But in a literary sense, the idea might have a seed of hope in it (pun intended).

This time of year puts gardens on my mind. I’ve got a container garden on my back porch, and with Georgia being so temperate, there are already tomatoes forming on the vines. In the case of a zombie apocalypse, there’ll be a lot of mobile dead matter out and about. And what likes dead matter? A garden! All it would take would be a well-timed bird poop, and bam! Meals on Wheels! Don’t you think a human skull would make a great planter, with all the little drainage holes? …not that I know from experience or anything.

Remember, folks, always brain your zombies.

What’s your favorite cider? Would you ever try produce grown in a zombie’s brain?