Kimberly Shearn, an echocardiography student at the University of Findlay, says she’s grateful the deer she hit with her car didn’t die in vain. Her university class dissected the deer’s heart and compared it to the donor hearts they typically study. (Photo courtesy of the University of Findlay)

By Hannah Mwaura
University of Findlay

“How many deer can say they donated their body to science?”

Kimberly Shearn poses this question as she reflects on bringing a deer heart into her echocardiography IV class for dissection.

Shearn, a University of Findlay echocardiography student from Fremont, was driving west on U.S. 20 toward Toledo on Oct. 19 when an 8-point buck jumped into the road and collided with the front of her car. While her 2015 Honda CRV was totaled, she was not injured.

After pulling to the side of the road and receiving help from the State Highway Patrol, Shearn called her husband to bring his truck to load up the deer. Shearn’s father and her husband, both hunters, dressed the deer in her backyard.

As a student studying the heart, Shearn was impressed with what she saw: “They cut the heart out and it was beautiful.”

When her husband asked if she’d be interested in using the heart for class, she messaged her instructor to ask if she could bring it in to dissect.

KIMBERLY SHEARN (Photo courtesy of the University of Findlay)

Sarah Niese, an echocardiography instructor at the university of Findlay, gave Shearn the green light to bring the heart in for a little hands-on experience.

“I thought that was a pretty cool experience,” Niese said. “Not every day do you get to do that. I was happy that we had the opportunity to get our hands dirty for the day.”

While some of the students in the class were hesitant, Shearn said many were comfortable with the assignment because they also had hunters in their families.

“They all really liked it, whether or not they wanted to touch it or not, which is understandable,” Niese said. “But they were all very thankful that we had that opportunity to do that.”

“After the shock, I thought it was really cool,” classmate Gabby Hickey said.

Once they began dissecting the heart, the students were able to identify all the parts and compare the deer heart to the donor hearts they had seen in the university’s cadaver lab. They were appreciative to see what all the parts in the heart look like and feel like, Niese said.

“The blood was still in the heart, so not only did they get to see the texture of the heart, but what blood looks like when it clots.”

As someone who never liked to see deer dead on the side of the road, Shearn was grateful that the deer didn’t die in vain, and that his body served multiple purposes after his death.

“Not only could we use this deer as a food source, but we could also use his heart for teaching purposes,” she said.