It’s about time I got around to answering your questions isn’t it? I will begin with a slight warning however, I might go into more detail here than you would like. I will always try and mention this at the start of any post I write if I think any contents might be upsetting. If that all sounds good, settle in and here we go!
Why did you start this blog?
Good question! In some ways I was asked to actually and it seemed like a great way of not having to repeat myself telling people what I was up to. So don’t feel annoyed if I say ‘Read my blog!’ in response to some things you ask me.
How did you get here?
The long version is here in my early blog posts, the short version is a combination of luck and hard work with a sprinkle of determination.
Why do you want to do this?
I can’t explain why very well, it’s something I thought I would love to do. I didn’t try for a long time because other people were repulsed and I thought I should be too in a way. However you have to follow what makes you happy and working with the dead seems to make me happy! I want to help people and I think this is the best way I can. I’m aware of how unbelievably cheesy that sounds.
Do you ever get grossed out?
Yes and no. Some things are still odd but I’m definitely at that stage where the fascination takes over the offensive nature of what I do. Don’t get me wrong, strong odours are gross no matter how accustomed to them you get but I’m yet to gag or feel really nauseous. Plus, sadly for my waistline, I still manage to tuck into my lunch every day!
How do you take out a tongue?
Not the way you probably think. From the chest cavity upwards. Your tongue is at the top of everything inside you and is connected all the way down to your bladder. We go up through from the opening in the chest, cutting through the connective tissues to loosen the trachea and oesophagus and then the tongue. I find this the hardest bit, you can’t actually see a lot of what you do but I think I’m finally getting it. We look at the tongue for bite marks or any other damage that may have happened in case you were wondering!
How do you remove a brain?
Using a bone saw and a scalpel. First an incision is made from ear to ear round the back of the head. Then the scalp is reflected back over the head loosening the connective tissues as you go and revealing the top of the skull. Once this is back enough, the bone saw is used to cut out a large section of the skull in order to reveal most of the top of the brain. Very skilled people can leave the dura (membrane around the brain) intact while sawing but I’m no where near that stage yet. The brain is eased out at the front and the various connections severed until it is free and it can be removed.
How do you place the organs back?
Everything will go back inside the person’s chest and abdomen in big clear bags called viscera bags. Usually average at two per person. When I say everything this includes the brain. The only items removed are anything that goes for further testing, like samples of fluids or tissues or occasionally whole organs. The head is packed and stitched, the body is stitched back together neatly and so there are no leaks.
How long does a post-mortem take?
How long is a piece of string? Straightforward ones can be quick. More complicated ones longer. We usually complete them in a morning but also usually have more than one happening at the same time. They take as long as they need to!
What’s the weirdest/grossest/coolest thing you’ve seen?
As an archaeologist I used to get asked the same question, usually what was the best thing I’d found. It’s odd, that this is probably the most often question from people and I imagine they want to hear a cool story. Alas, when I was an archaeologist I would ramble about this awesome piece of Samian ware Roman pottery I once found in a field in Colchester. Now I’m a trainee APT I have no idea what to say. Each day is interesting for a number of reasons. I decline to talk about specific cases, particularly on here, because you never know how traceable that could be even with the smallest of pieces of information supplied. Please don’t be offended that I won’t mention something you find amazing, maybe it’s just something that I find amazing- the whole topic is very subjective.
What is a Death Cafe?
Well how timely you should ask! Death Cafe is an organisation and an event, and I am holiding one in a week’s time next Wednesday. Please come along if you are about, it’s looking to be an exciting evening!
Keep the questions coming, especially if any of the above has prompted anything you would like to know about!