One classic sign of ineffective review is when I get to recall bits and pieces of what I had read the previous day but not well enough to bring them together into one cohesive concept.
I was half an hour early for the test schedule, just enough time to hear disturbing muscle names and articulations that I have read the night before. Jomel Santander, a classmate, mentioned AFA, and I – at the back of my mind – immediately followed through with AFAQ Lung. It was good that I remembered my own mnemonics; the downside was that I could not even name what the letters were for. First thing in mind: “Don’t fret. Multiple choice. Babalik lahat yan pag nadaanan ng mata mo.” I badly wanted to check my transes and find that missing thought but Doktora Maiksi ang Buhok suddenly came in asking us to put all our things in the nearby table. She started out with, “Kapag sinabing 9 ang start ng test, kahit hindi pa kayo settled, tumatakbo na ang oras.” Afraid of losing the second precious thing next to our brains, we scrambled to the corner, hurriedly piled up our stuff, and settled to unassigned seats.
Doc Es came in with the answer sheets. With his classic flat affect, he distributed the papers one by one. I feel the need to mention that it was a bit painful to watch for some reason. Half of our class, including myself, started with the laboratory exam. The rest begun with the lecture part. It was a long march from the Physio Lab to the Anatomy Lab. I was dragging each step down the stairs. I was too anxious to even notice the familiar stench of formalin.
22 stations: 7 cadavers, 2 vacant seats, 6 stations with 2 bone structures each. We had 45 seconds to identify – or should I say, guess – each pinned structure. Kuya Jun had an alarm clock of some sort which would signal when to move to the next station. I was jumpy; each krrrrrring sounded louder than the first. Each structure appeared more disorienting as we moved along. More than ten times, I wanted to throw my writing board against the wall, hoping it would help me spill out the answers that were stuck at the tip of my tongue. It was a nagging feeling. I had brushed through those muscles, nerves, and processes. Maybe I just didn’t mention them often enough or stared at them long enough during my review, but deep down at the back of my head, I once knew what they were. There was one item in particular that defined my entire day. It was a bone structure at the last station. It was a basic structure, a give away – a bonus point if I may use the term, and yet, there I was, remembering only the first letter, the accurate answer still a few neurons away.
“M… Mandibulum? No. Mandible? Never. M… M… Nag-aarticulate sa clavicle. Acromion? Hindi. Lateral side yun, sa medial side dapat, sa side ng sternum. Xiphoid? Nope. Yung superior end. M nga e……”
We had to submit our papers.
We were a few steps from Doc Es when Kenan Cinco, a classmate, checked and raised his paper at an angle that showed me his answers. It’s one thing to be tempted. It’s another thing to actually go and write down what I had seen. Both were not my concern. Why? I didn’t have my eyeglasses on. His answers were no more than a blur to me. How I thank God for not letting me fall into such pit. I handed over my paper and accepted defeat. More than the one point that I lost, it was the irksome so-near-yet-so-far feeling that gnawed on me.
At one point during the lecture part which was given right after the practicals, I had to consciously shy away from cursing out loud. With one finger at a point midway my chest and neck, I stared at Question no. 14: Where is the location of the jugular notch?
Two of the choices read:
…of the Manubrium.