Wednesday, September 07, 2005

MY FIRST: Dead body (Part I)

The devil makes work for idle hands...

The major project that I have been working on is in its maintenance phase and I haven't been assigned to anything new yet. I'm so bored I even volunteered myself to anyone who may need assistance with their work. Unfortunately I have to be close enough to my office should any situations arise so it's not like I can leave for hours at a time. No worries, things should pick up by the end of the week. In the meantime I have cleaned the inside of my refrigerator, washed the floors, and dragged Chutney on a long walk. I swear every time I walk by he gives me a look like "Crap! She's got too much time on her hands." I have decided to start a series called My First.

Back at university I was part of a Biology colloquium. Contrary to popular belief we didn’t sit around and extol the virtues of DNA vectors (although I have some great jokes about transgenic mutation which I’ll save for another post). We had great guest speakers and every once in a while we would take a field trip to somewhere interesting. One year we went to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office where we were to get a tour of the city morgue and, if we were lucky, view an autopsy. It was a chilly, fall morning in Chicago and I remember it took me almost 15 minutes to remove the frost from my car windows. When I got to the building my friend Smitha, the field trip organizer, was already schmoozing with representative from the Examiner’s office hoping to get assurance that we would see an autopsy. As much as I loved Smitha, she was the pure definition as an over-achieving college student. When class was ready to let out early, Smitha always raised her hand to ask 5 extra questions. When the professor forgot to give out the homework assignment, Smitha was the one who would promptly remind him. She was a perfectionist who was hard on herself and she planned to go to medical school specifically so her parents wouldn’t talk to her about marriage. Anyway, this was Smitha’s field trip and dammit we were going to see an autopsy even if she had to kill someone and do it herself.

All told there were about 13 of us. Smitha and I, along with our good friend Tom, hung in the back of the group and sensed the nervous energy in the air. Our tour guide was an older African-American gentleman who had worked at the Examiner’s Office for 20-some years. He spoke in a firm and deliberate voice and you just knew he didn’t take shit from anyone. For 5 minutes he warned us on what we’d see. The morgue freezer was big, he bellowed, and once we walked in there would be no exit until we reached the other end. “If you don’t think you’ll make it to the other end, please don’t bother going in.” Nobody backed out and our guide led us down the hall that would take us to the freezer. As we walked down the hall there was a body covered in a white sheet laying on a gurney. Without hesitating, our guide removed the top portion of the sheet and said “Ah, here’s a fresh one.” There lay an African-American man in his 20’s who had gang tattoos covering his chest and a bullet hole right above his left nipple. As our guide talked about entrance and exit wounds I distinctly remember thinking “Wow. He’s dead. This is my first dead body.” As cliché as it sounds, he looked in peace although it just didn’t seem real. By the time we made it to the freezer 2 people had dropped out and when the smell of formaldehyde hit us as the door opened, 2 more people declined to go in.

I’ll spare you all the gory details (which there were plenty of). I will say there were shelves upon shelves of bodies wrapped in white sheets with feet sticking out. The “fresh” ones were against the wall on the right-hand side and some were still dressed in street clothes. There were bundled sheets that were smaller than others and I couldn’t even look at them. I would rather look at the man who rode his bike into a telephone pole than see a child’s body. Although, for the love of God people, where a helmet when you ride a bike! The most overwhelming part was the formaldehyde. It made my nose and eyes burn and when I tried to cover my nose with my sweatered arm, it was as if I were mainlining it. The formaldehyde made you a little high and that wasn’t a bad thing given where you were. After walking what seemed like miles, our guide opened the exit door and we all hurried out and breathed the sweet, fresh air.

To be continued...


Anonymous tragicomix says...

the first time i saw a human foetus in formaldehyde, something within me died.

Wed Sep 07, 09:16:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Penny Lane says...

At a funeral of one of my uncles, I had to kiss his dead forehead... it was the scariest experience of my life... in my head, I was certain he was going to get up or open his eyes or something!

P.S. Got the package.. thanks a ton :)

Wed Sep 07, 10:10:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Abhishek Chatterjee says...

Death is something weird to deal with.Its everywhere and yet we go around not noticing it. I remember having a tough time dissecting a rat in bio class!

Wed Sep 07, 10:23:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Pink says...

Scary... reminds me of the time our classmate died and we had to go to his house and there he was lying on the floor, wrapped in white sheets... cold. We were so young... you hear of other people dying but you never expect someone you know so well to die. *shudder*

Wed Sep 07, 11:38:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Rat says...

OK when you said To be continued, did you mean the same dead body post or a new The First ??

Jsut wondering.

Thu Sep 08, 12:19:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Vignesh says...

Gah ! My friends dad works in trauma in Michigan. The stories he'd tell... the gifts wrapped in cranial drill boxes... what joy...

And people Down Under get packages and I haven't yet. I suspect some rat-tinness ;)

PS: The word verification thing is 'ssxus' now. I thought that was worth a giggle.

Thu Sep 08, 01:51:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Rat says...

Shit I just came to back to say I forgot my helmet at home today and Im very freaked out about going home today.

Thu Sep 08, 06:40:00 AM CDT  
Blogger D says...

i want gory details please?

Thu Sep 08, 10:07:00 PM CDT  

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