Why Jack Cooke left his body to science

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Why Jack Cooke left his body to science

Post by oneh2obabe »

In the soft, soulful light of the church he was called John Cooke.

Most people, though, knew him as Jack.

To his grandchildren, he was Papa. To his four kids, he was Dad.

But this past year, while at the University of Toronto, Cooke didn’t have a name, just a number.

None of the people who dissected his body knew the details of his life. They didn’t know that he loved to kayak, that he had a loud, booming laugh or that he could deftly open a can of Spam with an army knife.

Yet, they knew him intimately just the same.

On Thursday, the family who loved him and the medical students who studied human cadavers came together to remember Cooke and the 171 others who willed their bodies to medical science.

For the families gathered in the church at St. James’ Cemetery & Crematorium on Parliament St., the annual service marked the end of a year of grief.

For the medical students who spoke, sang and sat together in quiet camaraderie, it was the chance to honour their first patient.

Mary Yang, a first-year medical student from Toronto, told the 200 or so people who filled the church that she will always remember the strangers who helped her and her classmates understand the human body. It was hard, she said, to find the right words to express her gratitude.

“The best I can hope for is that one day it is reflected in our conduct and actions as future physicians,” she said with a catch in her voice.

“We didn’t know their names. We didn’t know their smiles or the way they might have held their loved ones in life. But they saw something in us that was worthy of their gift and that’s something that will stay with me always.”

As Yang stepped down from the podium, Cooke’s daughter, Laurie Labrash, began to cry. The medical student’s short, heartfelt speech confirmed that her dad’s choice to donate his body was the right one.

Most of Cooke’s family came to the service. Labrash and her two sons travelled from Winnipeg. Terry and Jeff, Cooke’s two oldest sons, drove south from North Bay. John, Cooke’s youngest, brought his wife and two children, Nicole, 10, and Jack, 7, from Brighton, Mich. Joyce, Cooke’s wife of 56 years, came from Cobourg where the two had built a house and life together.

Last June the family held their own memorial for Cooke, who died at age 81 from brain cancer. The fact that his body was in an anatomy lab 120 km away didn’t change how they celebrated his life.

They spoke of his 68 years with The Navy League of Canada and the many hours he dedicated to community service.

His sons told the story of a sunny August day in 2009 when Cooke water-skied, a triumph for an 80-year-old. Friends recounted his love of butter tarts. His grandchildren thought of the times their Papa took them camping and days spent skimming across cottage-country lakes in brightly coloured kayaks.

All the while Joyce grieved for her husband, whose grey-green eyes stole her heart in 1952 when they both worked in the Toronto office of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

One year later, the Cookes felt it was important to attend the university service.

They weren’t exactly sure what to expect, or how they would feel. It turned out to be a lovely remembrance.

They liked the three white candles lit by a professor, a medical student and a donor’s family. They were moved by the gratitude shown by fresh-faced medical students, dressed in their dark suits and grey skirts. They felt the import of their father’s gift when Ian Taylor, professor of anatomy, listed the would-be doctors who benefited from the donations.

“. . . Every orthopedic surgeon who trains in this city to replace arthritic hip joints, every plastic surgeon who reconstructs faces, every dentist who looks after teeth, every trauma surgeon who repairs a fractured pelvis . . .”

Later, when the memorial was over, John said: “No one there knew my father, but they said all the right things. It was like they did know him in some way.”

For Cory, Labrash’s 19-year-old son, the most poignant moment of the service was when Rev. Allan Budzin addressed the families.

Budzin said the decision to donate one’s body to the faculty of medicine symbolizes the deepest meaning of human love.

“Each of these men and women gave of themselves in many ways,” he said. “In friendship, in marriage and in the sacrifices of parenthood. In the dedication to sport or work or art or science. In the commitment to community service or to causes of justice, equity or freedom.

“Maybe,” he added, “their greatest gift was teaching us how to live and how to die.”

This is what Cory said his grandfather taught him.

“He showed me that every second counts. Right up until the end, that was the way he lived his life.”

Near the close of the service, a clear, sweet soprano voice soared under the arches of the chapel. As first-year medical student Ling Ling Chen sang Ave Maria, people bowed their heads, closed their eyes, clasped each other’s hands.

After the performance, medical students stepped to the front of the church to read aloud the names of the 172 people remembered at this year’s service.

There were Margarets and Marys and a few Dorothys. An Eveline and an Annelise. Peters, Patricks, Williams, Edwards, Roberts and, of course, Johns.

These were the people whose bodies were cut open and distributed for study. Their skin was peeled back, and their vessels and arteries and connective tissue laid bare.

The donated bodies offer a way of learning that students say is infinitely more valuable than studying images in a textbook. No picture can replace running one’s hand along a tendon, tracing its path from beginning to end.

Earlier this year, the 172 bodies were cremated and their ashes put in small boxes inscribed with their identification number.

Last week, those boxes were placed in a grave at St. James’ Cemetery under a memorial stone erected by the university.

The families didn’t see their loved ones go into the ground, but they did get to stand at the gravesite and toss in long-stemmed roses or scatter a handful of sand.

Cooke’s grandchildren threw in their flowers. So did Labrash, who cried as she let go a rose.

As the crowd dispersed, Labrash and her eldest son approached the two medical students who spoke at the service. The students thanked them, but Cooke’s daughter and grandson shook their heads and said “No, thank you.”

Before the Cookes got into their cars, they gathered in front of the grave for a family photo.

“This was just the right thing for Dad to do,” Labrash said. “Even though he is gone he is continuing to give.”

For over half a century, the University of Toronto has honoured those who donate their bodies to the faculty of medicine.

Each year, there are three separate services, held on the same day, to recognize the generous gift.

article with pictures of Jack Cooke
http://www.healthzone.ca/health/newsfea ... to-science
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Re: Why Jack Cooke left his body to science

Post by grammafreddy »

We are a generation of idiots - smart phones and dumb people.

You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.

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