MY LIFE IN A MORGUE
“You work WHERE..?!”
The looks on people’s faces when they asked me where I work were absolutely priceless.
I’d cheerily reply: “In a hospital mortuary.”
You could almost see the cogs turning as they’d try to process what they’d just heard. It was pretty much the same each time, as if I’d said something weird (and to them, it was).
To me, however, it was my daily workplace, and therefore just as normal as any office or factory – normal, but I do concede, somewhat unusual.
Although I always understood the general unease of people who’d baulk at my answer, I always felt compelled to explain. Not to justify myself and my work, but to shed some reasonable light on the reality of it and its immense value.
Image via The Guardian
Death is such an intrinsic part of life, yet it is all too often ignored in our society.
It is relegated to the back of our collective minds, or passed over as if it doesn’t really happen. The idea of death is more or less swept under the carpet or locked away in a cupboard – that is, until we’re suddenly confronted by it and it’s out of our control.
Some people’s assumptions and preconceptions about working in a mortuary are spot-on. You certainly can’t say there’s anything pleasant about working with corpses, but to be quite honest, there’s nothing really that awful about it.
Sure, sometimes the fetid odour of decomposition and the viscous, syrupy mess of bodily spillages can be confronting, but in time you really do get used to it. You never grow to like these things, but you learn how to deal with them. It’s all part of the job.
A mortuary is a really fascinating place to work, and it involves the provision of an essential community service. It’s one of those things that carry the “someone’s got to do it” tag.
Every day, everywhere, life ceases, and there’s always going to be an interim period before burial or cremation (whether that be a few days or a few weeks). In the meantime, it naturally follows, that someone has to look after the dead, and I was happy for it to have been me.
There’s many an interesting story to be told.
One time, we had a 317 kilogram body to deal with – the ultimate exercise in logistics and effective teamwork.
Once the “how-to” plan was devised, it took six of us considerable time to manipulate the body in order to feed steel chains underneath. These chains were fed through lengths of garden hose to prevent the metal cutting through the flesh. Using a car engine hoist, the grossly obese corpse was then winched up and slowly manoeuvred across to a custom-built, reinforced coffin.
Burial in a double plot was the only option available to the family; cremation was out, as the coffin was just too big for the doors of a standard crematorium furnace.
There are sad stories too, like the case of the 40-something mother who had been admitted to hospital after suffering an aneurysm at a rock concert. She didn’t pull through, and was moved to the mortuary.
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