One day in the prep room, I was told by my boss to go out to the parking lot and help unload some large boxes from a large refrigerated semi. I was unsure as to the contents, but later learned that the boxes contained torsos of dead people who had donated their body to “science.”
The torsos were packed in large Styrofoam packaging and were only about a day old. This meant that the people who the torsos belonged to had only been dead for about 24 hours. During the past 24 hours, their head, arms, and legs were removed and packaged for shipping.
Why? Each of the torsos had been selected to be used at a convention for back surgeons. The medical company had hired our funeral home to transport the torsos and set them up on the mock operating tables. It was here that surgeons from all over the country would practice on the torsos.
Of all of the death, smells, and sights I had seen in my short career in the prep room – this was the worst. The smell was horrendous – much like that of a slaughter house with fresh meat that had been butchered. Essentially that is exactly what this was.
I begrudgingly loaded my van with a few torsos and drove it over to a local hotel ball room, where the convention was taking place. I could not help but think of how odd and sick it was that I was wheeling in butchered torsos into a nice hotel. Of course no one knew what I had in the boxes.
The torsos were all from overweight people, which was actually part of the new procedure experiment. The torsos were extremely heave, flabby, bloody, and gross. I could almost not stand seeing or smelling them as I lifted them and positioned them on the operating tables. Each table was set up with an operating light, trays of utensils in plastic bags, and a “hazardous waste” trash can. Each table had been placed on top of thick plastic so no blood or guts stained the pretty hotel ballroom carpet.
There were several of us from the prep room working on this assignment. There were probably about 15 torsos.
It had never occurred to me that doctors practice their craft on cadavers, even though I had seen my fair share of movies where this was the case. What was most shocking to me was the fact that the bodies had been mutilated for the purpose of experimentation. It seemed odd to me that only a day ago these were living human beings, all of which had no idea their torso would be in another state, in hotel ball room, on an operating table. How bizarre is that?
It took me about a week to get the smell out of my nose, and about the same amount of time to get the images out of my mind. Even the most seasoned prep room employee had never seen anything like this, and found it repulsive.