Sunday, July 18, 2004

Do the Shuffle

Last night, I was working as the charge nurse.  One of the patients on my floor died and so I offered to help that nurse take her patient's body down to the morgue.   Many people, even in the health care profession, are squeamish about going to the morgue during the day, and even more so at night.  Though I've done it often enough now that it honestly doesn't bother me much at all.
There is one nursing assistant who I can't help but giggle at.  She gets all geared up for trips to the morgue.  She puts on two patient gowns on top of her scrubs, plus a disposable robe, cloth covers over her shoes and a hair net over her hair.  I should explain.  I wear my scrubs and usually add a pair of gloves when actually handling the bodies.
My one dread in the experience is the smell of the stale bodies in the refrigerator.  Some of the bodies were placed there days ago, not requiring an autopsy and not yet claimed by a mortuary.  I always assume they must be the ones emitting the strong aromas.
Whenever placing a body in the refrigerator, it is almost always nearly full.  The polite thing to do is to pull out one of the two-tiered gourneys.  (The top tier is almost always full.)  So then you must lower your body.  And with one person at the head and one at the feet, you transfer your patient's body (on its tray that you've rolled it in on via the single-tiered gourney) onto the lower tier.
HOWEVER...  For some reason I have yet to accept, the staff from the ICU's never fail to simply roll the newest body into the refrigerator directly from the floor, still on the single-tiered gourney they used to transport the body to the morgue on.  The problem then is...  The next person (which always seems to be me) must not only roll this single-tiered gourney out of the way to find room for the next body.  But I must remove the body from the single-tiered gourney, so I have a means of rolling my patient's body down to the morgue.
This seems like I am giving too much detail, which only makes it harder to understand, I'm sure.  So please just envision this... 
It is late at night.  My colleague and I flick on the light switch as we enter the cool, dark entryway of the morgue.  We unlock the refrigerator where the bodies are stored and hear a "whoosh" as the suction on the door is released (just like my refrigerator at home, in fact).  First, the smell hits me and I remember to breathe through my mouth.  I peak inside to find gourneys crammed together side-by-side and nowhere in sight to put my patient's body.  First, I shuffle the bodies around until I can empty one of the transport gourneys.  I roll it up to my floor to collect my patient's body.  Then I come back downstairs and shuffle more bodies around to find a temporary home for my patient while being polite (unlike the rude person before me) and leaving the transport gourney empty, so the next person might use it more easily.
And then, like a scene from Six Feet Under, the background music kicks in.  Do the Shuffle.  Doo doo doo doo doo-doo-doo doo doo.  Doo doo doo doo doo-doo-doo doo doo.

1 comment:

Jennynyc said...

What a visual! I despise people in the helping profession who do not make it easier on colleagues. Keep this blog up. It's fascinating and meaningful.