Friday, October 30, 2009

Questions of the day, Jenn edition

So here are Jenn's questions, and my answers. Keep in mind that different morticians do things differently, so my answers might not be true to what your local funeral professional does.

1. Do the bodies ever move or twitch or make noise (groans, etc.)? Yes and no. When someone dies there is no twitching or moving of the limbs and what have you. They might move a little because their muscles have completely relaxed (eyelids open, mouth opens, arms relax, etc.), but there are no other motions made by them. They can, however, make noise, usually because of air trapped in their lungs that releases, especially when we move them from their place of death onto a gurney. The air will kind of just come out, sounding like a heavy sigh. The first time that happened to me I took the guy's pulse to make sure he was dead. He was.

2. Do you really put a plug in the rectum to stop "leakage"? Yes, sometimes. The plug is actually called an A/V plug (anal/vaginal), and looks like this:

It screws into the cavity (after embalming), and first I fill it with absorbent powder (the one in the photo is a bit different than the ones I like to use, the ones I like have a larger area to put powder into). It isn't the best part of the job, but it's better than sewing the anus or vagina shut (very hard to do effectively) and WAY better than having stuff leak out of their body.

3. Do you really sew the eyes closed and/or wire the jaw closed? Kinda. With the eyes I use things called eye caps, which look like contact lenses made out of plastic, with tiny raised spots on them to "hold" the eyelid down, shown here:

The ones I use are clear, and they are placed on the eyeball before embalming.  This keeps the eyes closed during embalming, and after the embalming the tissue is hard enough that the eyelids don't open easily.  Just as an added precaution though I use a dot of glue on the eyelid to make sure that there isn't any chance the lid could open during a viewing (due to the dehydration and shrinking of the eyelid tissue, not because people try to pry eyes open all the time).

As for the mouth, the other embalmers I work with wire the jaw shut using things called injector needles, wires with a little barb on the end that embeds into the gum tissue, one on the top and one on the bottom, and intertwine those two together, closing the mouth.  I don't like the barbs though, they seem mean, even if they are easy, so I sew the jaw shut (my husband thinks it's crazy that I don't have any issues sewing a mouth shut but won't use a needle injector (the instrument used to force the barbs into the gums)).  I might have to work on a diagram to explain how I sew it, I guarantee it isn't the way you are thinking it is done.  Maybe I'll work on that this weekend, or see if I have a book with an illustration of it.

4. Do the muscles relax when you pass and you poo and pee? Yes, but most of the time that is taken care of during embalming.  Not only do a lot of the people that die have on some sort of adult diaper, but they are also on diets that consist of water and IV nutrients, so they don't have much to excrete (gross) anyway. And one of the things I do during (after) embalming is called aspirating, in which i take a trocar (a long "needle" of sorts, about two feet long) and puncture the stomach and suck out anything trapped in the organs (poo, pee, blood, bile, etc)  and drain it, and put in extra strong formaldehyde to embalm those organs well.

So, let me know what else you have...


HomeSlice said...

wow, this is actually quite fascinating. and it makes me not want to die - those "contact lenses" freak my shit out.

here's another question for you: i know you work on children or babies. do you do anything differently for them?

DB said...

I agree about the eyes, and also had no idea about lots of this stuff. Interesting!

Jenn said...

Wow! Thanks so much for those answers. Now...more questions. I, too am interested in the baby/child issues. Also, most of us like to think of death as a nice, quiet passing; but there are those that pass quite violently (car accidents, buildings collapse, airplane crashes) how does that differ? Have you ever encountered anything so horrific that you couldn't stand it?

Ivan Toblog said...

Do funeral homes charge like a corkage fee if somebody already has casket that they bought from Walmart or Costco?

Yeah, Walmart sells caskets (click my link for the story)

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog and too find your job quite interesting. We have an old friend whose uncle was a mortician and he told us some of the things that need be done to a body. This was years ago. Do you really have to staple a penis to the inside of the leg? Sorry to ask. lol Although it's all interesting it freaks me out a bit too. The plug? Yikes.


Doll Face said...

Okay, Anon, that made me LoL. Staple the penis? Heavens, no, but i thank you from my depths for that question, quite amusing.

I will work on the other questions this week.

Anonymous said...

Doll Face...thank you for clearing that up. I'm still blushing from asking that question.


Ivan Toblog said...

Doll Face - Does that mean you're still using Super Glue?

RIC Girl said...

Doll Face - Thanks so much for posting the questions/answers. I am absolutely facinated by your job! I have a question about facial reconstruction. Can you explain how you disguise bad cuts, broken bones or areas of the face that are shattered? How about the smells involved with the whole embalmbing process? Is it something you get used to?

Thanks again, I can't wait to read more!

MattOnFire said...

Fascinating, gross, and (again) fascinating. Really.
I hope they just put me in a box. Don't worry about the embalming & eye gluing and butthole corking. Just put me in a box as-is and throw me in the ground. No one has to look at me. I'm dead. Don't look at me when I'm dead.
Or you could just burn me up, I guess. But you don't have to look at me if it means you have to wire my jaw and staple my wiener. Just throw me in the ground and don't worry about making me look nice.

Jenn said...

Doll...ya out there hun? Everything OK?

Doll Face said...

Yeah, I'm here...Just thinking

Anonymous said...

A plug not merely shoved but actually screwed into one's anus, eye caps which are basically contact lenses with spikes, jaw wired shut, and mouth sewn closed. Tell me why we're afraid of the prospect of zombies if this is the condition in which they'll return, unable to do anything but moan and stagger about, blinded?