Eyes Glazed Over

Still of Olwen Catherine Kelly from the film The Autopsy of Jane Doe.
Fair nonprofit use applies.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A GRAPHIC JOURNEY INVOLVING MY FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE IN MORTUARY SCIENCE.

Blues on, apron tied, gloves on and face visor down. Tray number 3, unremarkable male. Body chart blank save for cannula in left wrist. Out it comes and into clinical waste. Gaudy yellow sack ready for more where that came from.

Onto the shiny steel dissection table, soaked in water to prevent blood sticking like glue. No need to shout “clear!” in this department, unless the drainage hole blocks. Sink at foot end and head on rubber headrest. With arms resting by side, they’re looking curiously comfortable with what’s to come.

Fresh blade on PM40 now angled in sternal notch. A gentle firm pressure and it glides down towards the abdomen like a hot poker through hide. Ease off and curve around the navel then rest to a halt at the pubic bone. No pain. No response. No blood.

A never-ending curious experience: dissection of the thorax, white connective tissue glistening like moonlight on water as muscle and bone exposed. Employed with brutal care, the rib shears crunch through bone until the breastbone is liberated. You think stargazing is amazing? This is one momentous revelation.

The heart… however.

Deflated, floppy and full of clots.

The life-giving pump lies defeated and slumbering in-between two empty spongy bellows. Feeling like a drug lord’s gangster, it’s time for the “corte corbata”: Columbian necktie. A procedure that would be beautifully carried out by Hannibal Lecter. The PM40 curves upward in arches beneath the surface of the neck until the ever-sickening feel of the blade against the palate. Eager hand then blunt dissects the throat with scalpel finally freeing ligaments holding now silenced tongue. Neck organs, heart and lungs are slowly peeled off the thoracic vertebrae then held in darkly comedic victory like the Predator after a kill. Fun fact for the fucked up, this grisly trophy is called ‘the pluck’.

The abdomen. Quaggy putrid chaos. Stomach to rectum boasts the incredible process of digestion, trust me when I say respect to the shit! Small intestine tied off twice then one quick snip and all 20+ feet are cautiously pulled and dragged over scalpel blade to free it from its tangled mess. Visceral fat hanging like cheap lace curtains as it emerges from the abdomen. Eventually the rectum is severed neatly from the pelvic floor ready to be rinsed. A fascinating yet vile task. From last meal to constipation, it’s as miraculous as gestation. Your body sure cherished that fry up.

Hungry stomach lies deflated beside liver, spleen, pancreas and urino-genitary tract. One final sweep of the PM40 and all is out leaving an empty carcass fit for, well, nothing. The heart shaped box of morte females present a cautious approach for within may lie a secondary body.

A viscous soup of abdominal leakage and blood oozing from the neck pool in the pelvic floor. A most foul broth worthy of nothing but suction.

The most humbling of this art is removal of the brain. Scalpel sweeps across scalp around and across the crown. Then scalp retracted downwards towards base of skull and forwards to brow bone region. The tentative electric saw screams into action sending up bonedust and the sickly sweet smell of burning flesh. Around it curves as above so below before crude hammer and chisel come knocking.

One loud crack and the holiest of holies is revealed: the brain. Handling such a complex organ that held hopes, dreams and personality is a seriously humbling experience. Eyes once bright now glazed, lost focus. Where did this person go? The soul has dearly departed. Or not so dearly. “Fell asleep” they say… during a bomb attack? “Died peacefully”, “Felt no pain”… under a train? It’s bereavement counsellor bullshit.

And all that’s left to conclude after a most remarkable experience marvelling at human anatomy and pathological findings is this: Two buckets of butchered slop are emptied into a black bin bag, placed back in the empty carcass and skin stitched up with twine. And within the skull? I’ll let you use your curious imagination.

Tray number 3 is ready for collection sir.

Laboratory Assistant and Trainee Mortician at The Royal Brompton Hospital

(1999 – 2001)

Assisted with the pathologists and MLSOs in the histopathology department. Ran the everyday functions of the mortuary, performed autopsies with the pathologist, liased with undertakers and laid bodies out for family viewing.

From page “About Me”

© Copyright: Sharon Lawson™

8 thoughts on “Eyes Glazed Over

  1. Very intriguing story from a mortician’s POV. 🙂
    ‘slowly peeled off the thoracic vertebrae then held in darkly comedic victory like the Predator after a kill’
    ‘The soul has dearly departed. Or not so dearly. “Fell asleep” they say… during a bomb attack? “Died peacefully”, “Felt no pain”… under a train? It’s bereavement counsellor bullshit.’
    Great contrast between the sombre introspection of postmortem and those flashes of gallows humour. Powerful story, Sharon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow thank you so much for your feedback Tom! Haha I remember writing this out so quickly as I recounted each beautifully grisly stage. I sadly lost my job due to worsening health but always feel privileged to have been allowed to glimpse into that world. Living in a semi rural area set off the catalyst for anatomical interests. My 10 year old self finding deceased animals and a 0curiosity what’s beneath their fur coat.
      Sharon 😊

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.