Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Trip to the Morgue

Despite the fact that I'm not a person who gets grossed out or sick at the sight of body parts gone awry, a trip to the morgue does not leave one unmoved by the experience.

Last week I was fortunate (?) to visit Cook County morgue again. This is my third morgue visit, and my second to Cook County. Wow. Even though I'd been there before, I still came away overwhelmed by the experience.

When I went to the morgue last summer, the body count was higher, and the smell much stronger. This time, there were fewer bodies in storage (maybe about 200) and it made the trek through the massive cooler much less difficult. Contrary to CSI-type shows, there are no drawers here. The remains of the people brought to the facility are stored on very large trays -- like giant cookie sheets -- stacked in six-high bunk-beds.

It's surreal.

The good thing (if there is a good thing about seeing death this up close and personal) is that the people there don't look real. They look like wax images of people. That, too, makes things easier to deal with.

While we were there, five autopsies were going on. Three gunshot deaths, one leap (push?) from a high place, and one I never found out about.

The sad part was knowing there were healthy organs that could no longer be donated. In the case of a fatal gunshot wound to the head, we learned that organs can still be donated without impeding a homicide investigation. We watched as several otherwise-healthy young people were autopsied, and their organs cut, weighed, and returned to the open corpse. And we couldn't help think about the waste. Waste of life for the young person being dissected on the tray. Waste of a chance at life for anyone on a donor list.

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