Hospitals Body Removals
One of our jobs as removal staff personnel at the funeral home, was to pick up the deceased at area hospitals. The hospitals would call after getting the families of the deceased had made arrangements with our funeral home. There were a variety of reasons people died in hospitals. Unsuccessful surgery, heart attacks, or some prolonged illness that had finally taken it’s toll.
Bodies in hospitals were always discretely moved to the hospital morgue, which was generally located in a non-descript, out-of-the-way location in the hospital. All of the hospitals in our city had morgues with security codes for entry of some type. So if someone could figure out where the door to the morgue was located, they would not be able to just walk right in due to the security precautions. The morgues seldom had anyone working in them, and I always remember being alone anytime I picked up a body with the exception of a few hospitals that required a uniformed security guard to be present.
The morgues often had walk-in coolers that held the deceased, or the big heavy rolling drawers where the bodies would lie. sometimes the bodies were in body bags, sometimes they were not. We were always required to drive our van up into some back alleyway of the hospital and were encourages to wheel the deceased through areas that did not have many people around. I guess it was bad for business if people saw dead bodies being wheeled out the hospital. But death is a reality at hospitals and often occurs daily.
The procedures for removing a body form the hospital was like most of the other procedures, though there might be some extra paperwork involved. Hospitals always had their own way of tagging a corpse, but we would always re-tag them with our standard ankle tag, which had the deceased’s name and ID number that corresponded with all of their funeral home paperwork.
Often times, the security guards would try to make small talk to lighten the mood. Often they seemed uncomfortable with having been assigned morgue duty. I always put them at ease by acting professional and by doing my job as quickly as possible. Some guards would try to not look at the corpse, and some would be very interested in getting a good look.
There were some hospitals with very nice morgues, but I remeber most of them being less than nice and being dimly lit and not as clean as the rest of the hospital. I guess since only the dead would ever be in these rooms it was less of a priority for them to spend money to make them nice.
We would often know that a hospital pick up would be in our future becuase we would hear from the family shortly after the person died. But it was not until we received the official call from the hospital after the body had been released that we could actually go pick them up. Sometimes it might be a day or two after the person had died. I’m not always sure why sometimes it took so much longer, but in some cases it had to do with whether or not an autopsy had been required.
One time I actually went to pick up a body at a very busy hospital and was told the body was in the E.R. A man had come in with chest pains and had ended up having a heart attack right there in the E.R. He died and the hospital was so busy they insisted that I simply remove him from the E.R. instead of them taking him to their morgue. This made it very awkward for me since I had to park right in front of the E.R. doors and remove his body in a much less private setting. Everyone there saw me come in, and then saw me wheel him right out the doors into the parking lot. It was not discreet and did not seem very professional, but it was what that hospital had asked me to do…so I guess I had no choice. It was the only time that ever happened. All of the other times, I simply picked them up from the morgues.