Monday, August 29, 2005



Could You Do It?

I've long been fascinated by forensics. Body farms, autopsies, stranglings, poisonings, serial killers, accidents, investigations of all kinds, I devour it all. But watching it on TV is undoubtedly a long way from actually experiencing it. I don't consider myself squeamish- OK, so I squealed like a girl and yanked my feet up when Kat's husband pointed out the roaches running around on the porch below- but as a rule. Admittedly, I have only seen one dead person outside of a funeral, but my reaction was not one of horror and disgust. Rather, it was one of sadness that despite the training I was receiving at the time, there was nothing I could do for the family. Nothing, except listen and pray and hope that my presence wasn't making things worse.

So what does it take to work with death for a living? From what I've learned, belief that life goes on doesn't seem to be a prerequisite. Maybe it's because I do believe we go on that this surprises me, but I don't understand how you can have any hope in being around death if all you think will happen is a big dirt nap. Pretty anticlimactic. And obviously, you can't be squeamish, afraid of blood or a few bad odors, but there are different degrees of this. Being a forensic entomologist might horrify some technicians who are content to sit in their labs and play with fibers.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. I think it started off as a treatise on squeamishness and somehow evolved into how can you bear to do this with your life-type thing. But you can't get away from death; it's all around us, from the turtle you run over with your car to the victims of hurricanes. You can't escape it, but why do we embrace it? Why do we cluster round the TV to hear about the body farm? Why are we fascinated by the many different ways to die? And does trying to answer these questions make us feel better about the eventuality of leaving this earth? I don't believe that's where the answers lie; look to God if you're worried about an eternal fire. But beyond that, maybe it's just comforting to see this gruesomeness and be glad, on a level, that it isn't happening to us. Or maybe emotions have nothing to do with it. Perhaps it is, after all, a purely intellectual exercise...

18 Comments:

At 8/29/2005 08:22:00 PM, Blogger Cori said...

I do NOT deal with death very well. But then again who does?

 
At 8/29/2005 08:38:00 PM, Blogger Shelley said...

I could NOT do that kind of work...not in a million years.

 
At 8/29/2005 08:52:00 PM, Blogger Jeff H said...

OK, 'fess up--is this all about running over a turtle on the road?

When I worked inpatient unit(s) at the hospital, over the years we had our share of "deaths", but I can only remember 1 when I was actually working a shift. The little old lady was in bad physical condition--breathing problems mostly, along with some kidney functioning problems. She was talking and just closed her eyes and went silent. A couple minutes later, she was gone.

 
At 8/29/2005 08:54:00 PM, Blogger lynnee said...

i've a female cousin who's a forensic pathologist. & i admit, i find this line of work to be fascinating.

sure wish i'd done a course like that instead of boring old business ... :(

 
At 8/29/2005 09:35:00 PM, Blogger Career Guy said...

Hi Nettie, we find a lot of students are suddenly interested in being "forensic" in some way, with all the CSI and Law and Order shows out there.

"Dirt nap"--I've always found that to be a funny phrase. Dirt nap. There, I said it again and it's still silly.

One time I was a patient in a four person ward and the guy across from me was having a terrible time breathing. He was sleeping, but making an awful racket. The other three of us all asked for sleeping pills since we knew this would go on all night. The next morning, it suddenly got quiet. I said to Kathy, "That guy is dead." She said, "No, don't say that." "No, he's really dead," I insisted. Just then, an aide happened by and realized what had happened. She called a code and they hustled the rest of us out into the hallway while they worked on him. They brought him back, since there was no DNR on him, but later we understand the family signed one so he could slip away the next time it happened.

 
At 8/29/2005 09:54:00 PM, Anonymous Stacy said...

My first job was an orderly at a huge hospital in downtown Denver. My first morgue call (where we go pick up the body and take them to the cooler in the morgue) was on Halloween night. The guys waited in there for me and gave me quite a fright. That hospital taught me quite a bit about death. Watching the nurses from the Neonatal ICU carry dead babies down to the morgue to watching the families in the waiting rooms grieving or the good times, rejoicing. I learned early on the death was a part of life and that is what we have done for our children. It's just reality. Of all the doctors I've known those with a belief in God handle their job better. You're a strong gal and you'll be just fine.

 
At 8/29/2005 11:51:00 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

Totally cool Tootie, I am fascinated with this topic and it doesn't faze me at all. Maybe the odor would, not sure yet. The smell of my own pee can send me on a heaving fit so bad I may upchuck a dwarf, so probably I'd have a hard time. It's not like I sniff my piss everyday or anything, but it's been there, right up in my nose and it's not pretty, believe me. My friend cleans up after dead people, murders, that type of thing. He's one of the only people in Canada to do it, and now he's franchized like a 7-11. If he sold slurpees, he'd make a 'killing'.

 
At 8/29/2005 11:52:00 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

Jeff, was she your girlfriend?

 
At 8/30/2005 12:06:00 AM, Blogger Jeff H said...

No. Unfortunately, all my old girlfriends are still walking this earth.

 
At 8/30/2005 04:23:00 PM, Blogger Marla Bean said...

I am definitely squeamish. My father-in-law gave me a Cromwell book to read about Jack the Ripper and I was so scared of the photos in it that I clipped them together as to not accidently run into them, again.

 
At 8/30/2005 06:48:00 PM, Blogger Better Safe Than Sorry said...

i absolutely loved biology in high school, i think i would be ok doing pathelogy, i might have a problem if it was an infant though. as for the smell, i think you get used to it.

 
At 8/30/2005 09:46:00 PM, Blogger Cindy-Lou said...

I love pathology and histology... I've done tons of it in research, not too sure how I'd do with forensic pathology, though. I've done more necropsies than I care to remember (similar to an autopsy and we'll leave it at that...), and I've assisted in many surgeries for the products I've helped develop (I worked for a biotech firm in the R&D department... it was so cool!) and I used to be able to sit and watch surgery on TV all day long... hubby nearly passes out when he sees that stuff.... but "the older I get" (I hate that phrase... lololol!) the less of that "stuff" I can seem to take. I'd really like to go back to school to become a nurse, an oncology nurse specifically, but that might be a while down the road.

 
At 8/31/2005 01:05:00 AM, Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Sorry, I'm squimish! I could never work in a funeral home. no no no...

 
At 8/31/2005 01:35:00 AM, Blogger John said...

Great stuff Nettie, I love all the patricia Cornwall stuff, but fortunately, I am in the business of raising the dead! :)

GBYAY

 
At 8/31/2005 02:48:00 AM, Anonymous Barbara said...

I return from my hols to find you discussing death.... hmm - have I missed something here?

Hope you are keeping well Nettie

God Bless

B

 
At 8/31/2005 11:24:00 AM, Blogger Paula said...

I used to love to watch CSI and forensic shows, but now they seem to bother me. Not sure why, I just want to try to think on the good things. Maybe these deaths remind me of the lost who are going to hell without Christ?

 
At 9/01/2005 12:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you would be great in that sort of a field. I think you would be able to manage the details while still maintaining your humanity.

As a weird way of defying my dad, I got my Masters in Crim Justice with an emphasis on forensic science. I saw many people, who just got numb after a while, especially in the ME's.

One of my favorite classes was forensic entomology, working with larvae and such. I still have a vial of Chrysomya Megacephala and Rufifaces, preserved in an alcohol solution, on my desk. You have to burn the waxy, chitinous shells off first by soaking them in hot water...or your boss' hot coffee.

I think you get use to the smell after a while, but you never forget it.

Alice

 
At 9/01/2005 08:19:00 PM, Blogger ~Deb said...

Hi Nettie,

I've always been fascinated by forensics and serial killers---even as a Christian. Sick, huh? I just think it's amazing what goes into a serial killer's mind. ie: The BTK Killer, Ted Bundy, and people of that nature, how they can do that without remorse.

The afterlife- I really have to say, (in my beliefs) that my faith in Jesus is what saves me from that deep fear of 'what if' thoughts. Death is for all...and you are right, we can't run away from it. Death on earth is one thing- we live on for eternity. I can see you have faith in God, so I know you can relate.

Did you see the last episode of "Six Feet Under"? That was one episode that really made you think.

Great blog!

 

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