Sumain, the Cadaver ‘Friend’, Assists Thousands to be Doctors

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SUMAIN in front of Anatomy Laboratory, FK UNAIR (Photo: UNAIR NEWS)

UNAIR NEWS – Sumain, known as Cak Main, has been 33 years befriending corpses. For commoners it might sound terrifying, but Cak Main as a facility employee of an education laboratory (PLP) in Anatomy Practice Laboratory of Faculty of Medicine, Universitas Airlangga.  This ‘friendship’ has been part of his job every day since 1983.

Every day this man works in Anatomy Laboratory, preparing everything needed for medical students’ practice. As anatomy is the basic of medical science, the practice needs a cadaver, a dead human body which has been preserved. So, he looks after the newly retrieved bodies, preserves them in the preserving pond, gets them ready on the tables and then keeps them again after the practice.  For him, cadavers are like ‘friends’ in the job.

In the interview with UNAIR NEWS, he said that it never crossed his mind that he would do this ‘peculiar’ job. Even his family does not know anything about his job as PLP in FK UNAIR.

”At first, my family didn’t know what I do at work. They just know that I work in FK. Then two of my children studied here, in FKM and Medical Analyst, so finally they knew about their father’s job. They weren’t mad, as from childhood to college this job provided their needs,” said Cak Main smiling.

Besides preparing cadaver for medical students, he also looks after and prepares the newly retrieved dead body (Mr/Mrs. X). Starting from the washing, keeping/preserving to getting them ready for the practice. After being preserved, the cadaver can be used for practice after eight months until two years. Anatomy practice with cadavers usually for ‘obgyn’, plastic surgery, nervous system surgery, anesthesia and other anatomy practices. Students in the second semester have been introduced to this practice.

Other additional task at work is when there is a workshop/training with foreign students/experts. For the big event, even when he is off work, Sumain comes to make sure everything is ready as he is responsible for the maintenance of the equipments.

Looking after dead bodies indeed is uncomfortable. At first, he felt that way. He was terrified for months until three years of working.

”At first I felt that I was forced and terrified. For three years I often had bad dreams and horrified. I even used to take the dead bodies from Dr. Soetomo hospital by a coffin,” he said.

Because of his responsibility as a man and he had to earn money, he overcame his fear. He can be considered as an expert of PLP. For his competence, two years ago he was sent to Malaysia to learn in Universitas Kebangsaan Malaysia. He, as a cadaver caretaker, is quite well-known and acknowledged. Thus, he often invited by other universities to give cadaver trainings such as in Universitas Cenderawasih (Papua), UNEJ Jember, UNISA Palu, Mataram, to Ambon.

For those who do not know the importance of cadaver, there are always some people who belittle his rare profession. But because of its rarity, the man from Wonoplintahan, Prambon Sidoarjo felt a bit proud of what he do.

”Sometimes they don’t know what cadaver for. These practices have assisted hundreds of doctors and professors. It makes me proud. So if there is an insult, I just stay quiet and even make fun of them,” said Main who admitted that his job had given him lesson in life.

”Now we are going through life and when we die, we’ll be like this. Therefore I always try not to burden others anywhere I am. Being burdened is okay, but never be a burden,” he said.

Similar as those FK students, he considers cadaver as a source of knowledge. Through these dead bodies, the medical students learn the anatomy of human to treat the alive ones. There are people who want to be kept here as cadaver when they die. But mostly their wishes are not fulfilled as their families would not let them happen.

It has been 33 years since he started work in this peculiar profession. According to the regulation, he will face retirement next two years. Until now, he does not know who will later continue his work here. “But later there will be someone. So for now I’ll just have to work my best,” said Sumain. (*)

Author : Binti Q. Masruroh
Editor : Bambang Bes

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