The Week I Discovered Cerebellums Are Really Squishy

I was the first person to arrive at the mortuary yesterday morning, and the last person to leave. I mean out of the staff who work there, not other hospital staff or the deceased just to clarify. People arrive all through the night, deceased people accompanied by alive people who place them in fridges for us to book them in the following day. I thought it had been a busy winter so far, but this week proved me wrong. I did not know the meaning of busy in a mortuary until yesterday.

My feet are really sore, probably because up until October I had become very accustomed to sitting at a desk for seven and a half hours every day, today I barely sat down for longer than five minutes at any one time. Yet I enjoyed today a lot! I enjoyed my week in total in fact. Highlights of the week include singlehandedly topping up the extra capacity, continuously asking ‘can people please stop dying now?’, a brain that looked a lot like a cheap toy plastic brain, holding a leg in the air while my colleague stitched it up, booking tickets for both a reconstruction training day and Griefcast live, a night at Barts Pathology Museum learning about heart surgery and how the first operations involved poking a finger in and hoping for the best &, last but not least, helping with showing nurses around the mortuary alongside our booking in processes.

Back at Barts, many more exciting visits there in March for ‘Funeral March’

There was an awful lot crammed in to the last five days, I’m not sure where to even start. I am proud to say I have, in some cases poorly, removed five brains now in total. My manager advised to start counting how many, so that I’m years to come I can stand at a party and proudly say ‘I’ve removed the brains of over 5,000 people’ and sip my beverage awaiting the admiring looks. Or the nauseated faces. Either way, that’s cool. I think I’ll also recount how in the early days I had a tendency to mush the cerebellum with my finger tips.

I also removed a bladder and prostate fairly successfully, in that I didn’t pierce the bladder and it came out. I did get covered in another substance you find down in that region in the process but that’s by the by. I took the pathologist’s notes for two days which I like doing because she shows me the things she finds, like lung infections and kidney cysts. I think I scared her at one point peering through the glass of the viewing gallery with my glasses right up against it trying to see something. I always sit so close and uncomfortably so I can see that I ache a bit afterwards.

Imagine that looming over you while you worked….

I feel like although my feet ache like they did after I ran a half marathon (once upon a time in 2015 I could do that believe it or not), I learnt so much by getting stuck in and helping this week that I have a real sense of accomplishment in my exhaustion. I’m also really chuffed because I mastered a stitching technique I was shown where you do four stitches at a time before you pull it tight and it’s super-speedy. One of my main aims has been to get faster at stitching so I’m more useful in the post-mortem room.

So that was my week, insanely busy and enough to have me in bed at 9pm most nights when I wasn’t gallivanting around a museum. I am really looking forward to improving my skills further and learning new things, but for now I’ll bask in the glory of what I’ve done so far.

Thank you for reading and please do get in touch if you have any questions. I’m @gemmanorbs on Twitter and can be contacted at gemmanorburn@icloud.com.

MG x

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