Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Question-fest

Question from Jenn:
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?

It's strange I suppose, but the horrifying part of dying is usually okay with me.  There have been auto accidents that have been very scary looking when the body reaches me, with the re-building of the skull alone taking a whole day, and the actual face taking a lot longer.  A few suicides have also been quite the projects, shotguns are very damaging.   The worst looking cases (and most likely that I cannot help them) are usually drowning victims that don't get removed from the water quickly.  We call them floaters, and the water makes them decompose very quickly, and they smell awful and look even worse.  But really, I haven't ever had a case that I couldn't work on because it was too gross, I actually like the gross ones, they give me something to do. 

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

LoL.  It's actually illegal to charge a casket handling fee, but funeral homes get around it by either offering package pricing when a family buys a casket from them and then itemizing their service fees if the casket is purchased elsewhere, or by raising their service fees and lowering casket prices so that they get the money anyway.  Costco has been selling caskets for a while now, and I have only encountered a family using them twice, so I'm not really sure how well they're doing with the whole thing, and just as a side note: the caskets offered now by Walmart are made by the same company as the Costco ones.

And a last one from RIC Girl:
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 embalming process? Is it something you get used to?

As for facial abrasions, it depends a lot on the type of wound.  No matter what the hole is stitched up, I usually use dental floss (white, mint).  It's very strong, and thick enough not to rip through and tear the skin when pulled tightly enough to close a gaping facial wound, but not heavy like the string I ues to stitch up the embalming incision(s), and it smells nice.  Anyway, if part of the skin is missing i bring the two (or more) sides together as much as possible when I stitch it up without pulling too hard so that the skin looks too tight.  That way there is floss going across the hole, giving the stuff I use to fill the hole up with something to hold on to.  once its all stitched I dry the tissue really well with a chemical, and I can then start rebuilding.  The product I like to use the most for that sort of thing is called "Easy Way" (I know, totally lame name) and is made by a chemical company called Dodge (I think they're out of Massachusetts (wow, I don't think I would have EVER been able to spell that state n my own)).  The Easy Way is a powder and a liquid that I mix together when I'm ready to use it, and I can make it any consistency I need.  I usually make it a little more pliable than modeling wax, and stick it where I need it.  If I'm using it to fill a hole I just sculpt it to fit the surrounding tissue, and smooth it over using a paint brush and a chemical called "Dry Wash II" something a lot like nail polish remover, that allows the brush to glide over the Easy Way and not stick to it.  When the Easy Way looks the way I want it to I cover it with some of the powder in the mixture and let it sit for a bit.  I can add layer after layer to build up features (like a nose or lip, or something like the brow bone or cheekbone if it wasn't able to be rebuilt from the underside) after the underneath layers dry and become hard if I need to.  When Easy Way first came out it was hard to work with, but I kept at it, and now I like it much more than the wax clays we used for eons before the Easy Way came along.  I've been trying to teach Jane to use it as well, but she's old and set in her ways (and she usually hires me to do reconstructions anyway).  Once the features are the way I want them I use make-up over them, and then apply any hair that might need to be there (eyebrows/eyelashes are common things that need to be replaced in accident victims).

As for the smells, yeah, they're gross, and I'll admit, I have gagged a time or two, but they really don't bother me too often.  Don't get me wrong, I dont adore the smell of decomposing flesh, or the smell of viscera on an autopsied case (imagine what rotting feces would smell like), but it's just part of the job.  Same thing for the smells of the chemicals, I just kinda have to bear them, so I do.


Ivan Toblog said...

Easy Way kinda sounds like Bondo.

Hmmm! Verification word - wingero

Jenn said...

Thanks, again, for your answers. If I could, I would like to tell you a couple of stories about our local funeral director. The first: there was a homicide in our state (not local) and the murderer cut off the woman's legs and threw them in the woods. They were located, and we asked local funeral director if they would have been sewn on before placing the body in the casket. He said he, personally, would have. Would you? Next story is a elderly female who passed. She had sons and they were terrible distraught about having to go into her bedroom and locate undergarments for her. When they brought her clothes, they had forgotten panties and funeral director didn't want to upset them further by asking them to bring panties, so he went to a local discount store and purchased some for her. Several people asked why he didn't just bury her without panties, as no one would know the difference. He replied "I would know.". Thoughts?

Doll Face said...

So, I don't know if I would have sewn the legs on, it depends on their condition. If they were decomposing and smelly I might not have, not because it's too gross, but because I wouldn't want them to smell during the viewing, and I would have put them in a disaster pouch (a thick body bag) in the casket. Otherwise, yes, I would sew them back on.

The undergarments are often forgotten by family members, so we keep ones on hand for that purpose. I just go to Target and get underwear, camisoles, undershirts and socks in various sizes to keep in the dressing room. Every now and then though a family will tell me that "mom didn't wear 'em, so we didn't bring any" in which case I don't put any on.

Anonymous said...

Wow...I always assumed the majority of accident deaths were closed casket. I was so wrong. Interesting stuff!

I have to tell you I am so upset over the underwear. My father passed away from cancer almost 4 years ago and it was a horrific experience for me and how it came about. Anyway...when the funeral home asked for his clothes none of us even thought about boxers and I have no explanation for why we didn't think to take a pair.. To think he has no underwear upsets me now. Maybe the funeral home we used was as thoughtful and caring to have some on hand like you.


Anonymous said...

Had to come back and tell you I texted mt sister to inquire about the boxers. Yes, dad has them. Whew! Such a strange thing to think twice about. lol


Doll Face said...

All the funeral homes I've worked at have had a "spare undies" stash, fyi. It really is common for families to forget the undergarments, and it's also common for us morticians to not let people go without them I guess.

RIC Girl said...

Doll Face,

Thank you so much for answering my questions. I check your site daily for updates - I am so intrigued by the whole process.

Keep the great info coming!

thecheckoutgirl said...

you are so dear for sharing yourself and your work with us lucky readers.

you are so much my favorite right now.

homeslice said...

thanks so much for all the great answers. it's awesome.

Ivan Toblog said...

Did I thank you for your answer?
Okay, thanks, Doll

Miss Anne said...

More or less, the best blog I read.


I have your blog "favorited" and it's my morning "treat" to click on it, and when there's a new entry, I kind of feel like it's Christmas.

Creepy? maybe... but it makes my day!

(thought you'd like to know)

keep writing! :)

Jenn said...

I agree with Miss Anne. And now am wondering: has anything amusing or hysterically funny happen to you?