"It's a small organ located on the right side of your abdomen, and its purpose is to store bile to help digest your food. Bile is actually green, so the gallbladder is also green. Stones can form in your gallbladder if the bile salts crystallize, which is incredibly painful." Despite that, she says, "The stones can be quite pretty, ranging in color from gray to turquoise to forest green."
Your liver is also nothing like you're picturing it. "It's a pretty imposing-looking organ; it's not squishy like the rest of your abdominal organs, and it's much darker. It's smooth, firm, dark burgundy, and it has a pretty angular shape. It's also bigger than people think; it takes up a fair amount of the right side of your torso, just under your rib cage."
Gandolfo Cannatella/iStock/Getty Images
No way Dr. Lecter ate that in one sitting.
Lastly, let's talk about why every disemboweling movie scene is wrong. According to Lisa, "Your intestines aren't just a jumble of tangled rope sitting in your belly! It really bothers me when movies and TV shows get this wrong. If the intestines have been surgically removed, they might look like rope, but if you're disemboweling someone, the intestines don't just spill out because they are attached to tissue called the mesentery" -- which actually looks like a horrific fleshy spiderweb. You'd think horror movies would take advantage of that disturbing fact, but we guess "rope made of bubblegum" plays better on film ...
The Work Can Be Surprisingly Dangerous
Zombies aren't real, so why do pathology techs wear chainmail in the labs? According to Lisa, "You always assume that every single specimen is HIV-positive and treat it accordingly, but close calls have happened. Once, one of the residents cut himself while dissecting a specimen from someone with hepatitis. Cutting yourself is actually pretty easy to do. Some people wear chainmail gloves on their non-dominant hand for that reason, but a lot of people don't like them because they interfere with your sense of touch and your dexterity."
etienne voss/iStock/Getty Images
You're performing delicate lab work, not shucking oysters.
"Another time," Lisa continues, "we got a lung specimen that seemed fine, so it was dissected on a regular bench, but then a report came back that it looked like tuberculosis, so we had to isolate all the equipment it had touched, and everyone walked around breathing pretty lightly until we found out how to clean up tuberculosis germs."
Speaking of breathing, there are a few studies out there that suggest that formaldehyde, the thing used to preserve human remains, might actually give you nose cancer if you inhale too much of it. It's why pathology lab techs wear sensors to measure air quality and make sure that it isn't above the allowable limit for all the various chemicals. But as horrifying as that is, it's kind of comforting to think that even in death, our bodies still have the potential to influence other people's lives. It would be nice if it was through something else besides giving them cancer, HIV, or hepatitis, but you take what you can get.
"If this is your last breakfast burrito, colon, in death you shall have the last laugh."
Lisa is an aspiring nurse practitioner working in LGBTQ and sexual health, and will probably never quite grasp the nuances of normal dinner conversation. Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Psst ... want to give us feedback on the super-secret beta launch of the upcoming Cracked spinoff site, Braindrop? Well, simply follow us behind this curtain. Or, you know, click here: Braindrop.
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Horrific Things You Learn Preserving Brains For A Living and 5 Awful Realities Of Transporting Human Corpses For A Job.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Why The Zombie Apocalypse Would Fail Quickly, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!
Also, follow us on Facebook, and let's all compare pancreases.
Did you know cats modeled their "meow" after the cries of human babies, just because they knew us humans care about that noise? Did you know dogs can read your mind (emotionally), and live in constant suspicion that you know where the good food is (you totally do)? In the next LIVE episode of the Cracked Podcast, host Jack O'Brien leads Cracked's team of pet-loving/fearing comedians through all the ways our dogs and cats are more powerful, creepy, and awesome than we ever could have imagined. Jack will be joined by Carmen Angelica, Dan O'Brien, Alex Schmidt, and Jake Weisman at the UCB Sunset Theatre on Wednesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. Purchase your tickets here!
Have a story to share with Cracked? Email us here!