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Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Famous & The Dead

David Carradine...

Farrah Fawcett....

Ed McMahon.....

and, the grand Daddy of them all...

The Queen of Pop.

June has been a pretty bad month for celebrities. I'm glad I'm not a celebrity. I wouldn't want to die in June, particularly this one. It would be a real bumfuck to die during one of the coolest Junes in recent history.

But, you know what they say about death: you don't get to choose. Unless, of course, you're a suicide. You don't have to worry about me on that score, though. Way too much to live for. Way too scared.

Though I'm by no means a suicide risk, I do have to say I'm not altogether too thrilled about waking up tomorrow and hearing people memorialize and mythologize Michael Jackson. My place of employ is going to be electrified with moronic, dunderheaded, pointless drivel about him, and I kind of wish I could spend tomorrow locked in my basement, just kind of let it all pass by without having to listen to any of it-- that would be seriously fine by me. I don't want to listen to people remembering practicing the "Moon Walk" in their parents' basement while wearing feet pajamas. I don't want to hear about some dickhead's first kiss to "Beat It." I mean, who would have their first kiss to "Beat It" anyway? I mean, I'm sure more than a couple pre-adolescent boys had their first kisses that way down at the Neverland Ranch, but that's their problem.

I wonder about the EMTs and paramedics who responded to the 911 call, though. I do wonder about them. I wonder how I would have behaved had I been summoned to render aid to Michael Jackson. It was obviously a critical emergency, and I'd like to think that I would have been all business, but, it's Michael Jackson. I mean, how can you actually tell he's dead? I guess that's where cardiac monitors come in. Can you just step back and picture yourself giving CPR to that man? I mean, fine, as a healthcare professional, you'd be using at least a barrier so your lips wouldn't have to directly touch Michael Jackson's dubious lips, but still... Just picture it.


Also weird-- they're going to perform an autopsy on him, probably tomorrow. How'd you like to be the coroner in charge of that one? Wouldn't you be petrified of what you'd.... find.... in there? I mean, again, it's Michael Jackson. Who the fuck knows what's hiding in there? Maybe he had a titanium duodenum retrofitted, or a small, waterproof music box that plays "Black or White" during digestion. There could be small animals living inside there. Way fucked up. Couldn't pay me enough to cut that shit open and take a peek. Sorry.

As part of my EMT training, I was required to attend an autopsy at the morgue of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. The deceased was your typical old lady-- distended belly, pale, flabby skin. Her wristbracelet said she was 87. No toe-tags. I guess that's just in the movies. She died of cancer but, since she passed away in the hospital, I think an autopsy was required. The gentleman in charge of the morgue at Jefferson was conducting the autopsy, and he cautioned me about professionalism and decorum around the dead.

"A couple years ago, I had a bunch of EMT students in here observing an autopsy on a deceased gentleman. When I cut into the lining of the stomach, a small piece of feces popped out, sailed through the air, and landed on the head of the deceased. This one EMT student, who I later found out was at the top of her class and was certain to graduate with distinction, blurts out, 'Wow! I guess he's a real shithead!' Well, I threw her fucking ass out of my examination room and, when the autopsy was over, I called the head of your EMT program and had her kicked the fuck out. So, just so you know-- in here: you watch your ass, and your mouth."

Needless to say, I was a very, very quiet EMT student for this autopsy. With my mouth, as long as it's open, there's the risk of trouble, so it was firmly shut. I helped him weigh the various internal organs. I helped him saw through the skull to expose the brain. After the top of the skull was off, he told me to cup my hands beneath the deceased woman's head. He snipped around the brain a few times with the forceps and, before I knew what was happening-- plop! -- her brain was in my hands.

You never forget that, I expect.

The philosophy behind requiring EMT students to attend autopsies is, I suppose, to get them comfortable with death, or at least acquainted with it. As a healthcare provider, you're going to be exposed to death eventually, so it probably should be done first in a controlled environment, where you're not responsible for the demise of the individual who has passed on. Plus, it's an incomparable anatomy lesson-- far better than any ditto sheet or textbook illustration.

It does smell worse than textbooks and ditto sheets, though. If you think regular, live old people smell, and they do, try being around a dead one whose rectum has just been cut open.

They say that an autopsy robs a corpse of its dignity, but I think people who say that have never actually been to an autopsy, at least not one conducted by the chief coroner at Jefferson Hospital. This man treats his corpses, well, like patients, and that's not always an easy or expeditious thing for a coroner to do. I trust that the coroner who stands before the corpse of Michael Jackson will do likewise, though I'm pretty sure Michael Jackson's dignity was lost a long time before his final breath.


  1. Did you ever see the Reno 911 episodes where they were messing around in the morgue?

    Respecting a corpse's dignity has it's place, no doubt, but man, that shit was funny.

  2. Definitely not the coolest June here - whew! It's HOT out there and I had to get all suited up for an interview - ICK!

    I actually forgot about MJ dying. There was no talk about it at the library when I volunteered this morning and it really didn't come up in the job interview.

  3. I'm hoping we finally find out if he had that skin disease or not.

    It'd be nice to know...


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