I found it amusing but, on the other hand, very natural when Brit talks excitedly about her baby first heart beat while opening up an unfortunate fella, whose brain matter was scattered all over a guardrail, and whatever left is spilling out of a skull cracked like an eggshell. Or when Tiff sings along the radio while taking pictures of a maggot-ridden ”stinker” – she has a nice voice (at least to my half-deaf ears) and chooses the station I like. I guess it is “Life for the living” thing. I agree with it.

If an autopsy is “boring” like on a youth with drug overdose, my mind slips away. Sometimes I try to picture my own postmortem examination. I know my heart is normal – I saw it on ECHO two months ago, but what about my lungs? I lived in megapolis most of my life and used to smoke like a chimney. Probably, they are not so bad: I can still run a marathon without getting short of breath. What does my brain look like? Do I have any? I’ve never had imaging studies done to prove its existence. Is my liver fatty? The fact that I will never be able to see all my organs at once upsets me a bit. At other times I compose a story about myself. Every our case has a detailed one prepared and typed by medical investigators. They are a cheerful crowd with a grip of a pit bull: if you are curious about an accident of near drowning in a bath tub, which caused some neurological problems in our client a mere 45 years ago, they will promptly dig out all details including old medical records. So I make up stories in different styles and circumstances, and then I start worrying about my dog: will somebody remember that he is alone at home? Will they call my old residency program to look for my friends? How are they going to contact my next of kin who is abroad for a while? I wonder what a shrink would say about a mess in my head. I’ve noticed that the majority of my colleagues are in denial that something similar can happen to them. They get serious and unhappy when I joke about myself like my words can attract some evil forces. I guess they have their own defense mechanisms. Such thoughts and images almost never (yet?) come to my mind after work. Although, I had a dream some days ago, which Dr. Hannibal Lecter would find appealing. I am taking and deep frying thin slices of midbrain. I admire them: they are almost transparent, and I can clearly see red nucleus, substantia nigra and spinothalamic tracts. I say to someone: “take this – I saved it for you”. In retrospect, I can think of at least three people who would have accepted such gift. Do I need counselling already? Only after a month of my forensic fellowship?

Beth’s comments: Possibly you need counseling... but you may have needed it before... I actually think that this rotation has made you poetically introspective, even if it is in an anatomic format ...your co-workers think of it too....we used to stay that we just did not want to be stinkers, because that means that nobody cared if you were dead for days.....but interestingly enough many people who worked there ended up being autopsied....I do not have Hannibal Lecter dreams.....but I do have Anthony Hopkins dreams :)...stay sober....

Jenn’s comments: Well Helen, this all sounds run of the mill forensics to me! At many moments the environment is almost surreal! Anyone serving as a casual observer would be appalled and disgusted but this is how we all make it day to day, seeing bloated decomposed bodies, decapitated children and parents, seemingly endless young black males gunned down, babies dead for no explainable reason other than the term sudden death which indicated that we really have no control over who lives and dies... All I know is, I never want to have so few care for me or check on me that I am found rotting is a soupy pool of decomp filled with squirming maggots when the neighbors complain of a foul odor! Or to go to city burial because no one ever identifies me!