Warning: Talk of wee beasties and creepy crawlies may not be everyone’s cup of tea and may leave you with an itchy sensation!
While every day we receive a number of deceased patients in the mortuary, in terms of living organisms you might think we would be quite limited. You would be wrong. On any day we could receive a large number of tiny little guys just hanging out with the dead trying to live their best life. I would say the main culprit for this is those little wriggly fellas the maggots.
Flies lay eggs on pretty much anything organic that they think will feed the maggots that hatch. Maggots grow fairly quickly from these eggs and will devour what organic material is present. This could be anything from food to, sadly, a dead person. Occasionally we see new patients to the mortuary with fly eggs, and these can usually be found around the soft tissues of the face or in places like ears. The first time I saw this was on a deceased who had died in their garden and had been there for not very long, but long enough for flies to lay eggs around their nose and mouth.
Note: You’ll notice (and perhaps be grateful) I’m not including any photos in this one!
Other than maggots we can receive other little live stowaways such as fleas or lice. Just writing this is making me itch so I will try to keep it short and succinct. All these wee beasties actually do not really move in the fridge, and only start to wriggle once warmed up a bit. Thankfully we have a chemical we pour on them that causes no damage to the deceased but kills anything else quickly. We try to use this as liberally as needed ensuring that anything hiding on people is killed. We also always store anyone with any form of infestation in a body bag to ensure that it is kept to them and them only. Luckily, even fly eggs do not hatch once the chemical is poured on them.
For my training course I had to research a form of infestation which could infiltrate the mortuary. I chose to look at bed bugs and spent a good while feeling the crawling itch while I researched them. I think it left me with a slight fear of bed bugs, especially considering they can hide in anything and be transported with you anywhere. They can just hide in folds of clothes or in bags happily awaiting a new home. I’m not a creepy crawly fan at the best of times but typing this I am seriously itchy all over and I have a feeling you may be too.
That’s why it’s probably a good place to stop. I’m glad to say that we have enough precautions and tools in our power that we can minimise the impact and prevent any infestation that may occur. I am very glad to be able to say that.