30 January 2012

Of Posts, Old & New

there has been a lot going since i've started this blog. academically, personally, financially and emotionally. you know, life & shit happens. it was my intention to blog all about my academic experiences but sometimes, well - most of the time, it was nearly impossible for me to do so. i know of others who posted on the regular and hurray for them. perhaps i'm not as organized as i had previously believed to be O-o?

in any case, i have a WHOLE bunch of posts from the last semester that are still being edited, like 8 or 11. i'm no html whiz and i'm trying to get it down right (adding pictures, links, etc). all these posts have something to do with my weekly adventures in embalming lab.

well, it's a good thing that i kept all my case reports and i can reference what exactly i did that week. while i won't go into detail of the person themselves (markings, names, or any other personal identifiers) because not only is that ILLEGAL but also just bad form, i will go into detail of procedures that i learned.

these posts will be published over the course of this semester. better late than never? does anybody read this thing, anyhow? eh. at least i have a record for myself and i guess that's all that really counts :)

anyhow, thanks for joining along with me for the ride.

and i promise, there is always room for one more, honey....


20 August 2011

1st week down; 17 more to go!

It's the first week back and wow, so much is going on: organizing, printing, reading, dusting off my brain and reintroducing the concept of STUDY mode after such a long break, waking up uber early, commuting, embracing my inner hermit and yes, still looking for a job in the industry.

Caffeine has been my best friend and will be for the rest of this semester.

I do worry about some things, such as: do I remember how to raise a vessel, how to make a nose/eye/mouth, how will I do in chemistry, will I find a job or will I be broke the entire semester, will I be ready for the board exams? I'm sure it'll all come back to me & I'll at least pass my classes and boards and will be gainfully employed soon enough.

A couple things have changed. In semesters past, some of our classes were divided into 9 week short term classes in all 3 semesters. Well, not anymore! All the 9 week courses are now 18week full term classes. Definitely pros & cons...We'll see how that goes...

Also, there is a test in Embalming II that is being implemented for the 1st time this semester (or so we were told!): a Lab Techincal Task Competency. Bascially, it's a practical exam for us to demonstrate our competency in 6 areas:
-Feature setting
-Vessel raising
-Mixing fluids
-Injecting fluids
-Suturing incisions &
This Task Competency exam will determine whether or not we will be able to take the National Board Exam (NBE). Note: this exam doesn't affect my grade in the course; I may pass Emb II with a passing grade, but if I don't meet the expectations of the evaluator (1 of 3 possible evaluators, all instuctors in the program), then I won't get the OK to take the NBE. There is no exact date for this exam and it sounded like we'll only find out once we're in lab and have it sprung on us!

This kinda reminds me of what I did in Cosmo school - school preps you for the state boards but what you did in the salon was waaaaaaaaaaaaay different than in school. But in order to work in the salon, you gotta pass your boards, and at least you had a base knowledge to work from. We had practice state board exams in our school once a month (or when enough students had acquired a certain number of hours, say 1400 of the 1600 state required practice hours). We had to find a model & have that model come in for 3-4hours on the practice exam date. We were given our list of "appointments" for the day, timed and overseen by a proctor. And if we didn't get a satisfactory/passing score, our instructors wouldn't approve us (read:sign paperwork) to apply for the boards.
I would be lying if I said that I wasn't nervous about this exam! But, I totally agree with it, even if we don't take practical exam for the NBE (only written). I think that the major focus of our program is in Embalming. Yes, there are other subjects we study. A would-be Funeral Director wouldn't have to go through our program to get licensed (in CA); but if you want to be an embalmer (apprentice embalmer), you must go through the program at some point before/during your apprenticeship. And I totally understand that what one does in school *may* differ from what is actually done in a prep room/work environment, our program is designed to prepare us for the NBE's.

I have yet to hear anyone complain about this, but I'm sure there are those out there who don't agree with it. What I don't see is why the results aren't directly tied into our grade. Not that I would need motivation to pass my boards, but it would make sense if this was part of our grade; might as well since this affects whether or not we get certified to take the NBE. Whatever; I say this now and come finals, I may be grateful that it's not!

I've missed my classes and look forward to what this semester will have in store....so, gotta go and get crackin' on them books & lecture notes!!

20 November 2010

I love Thursdays...

**old post that i somehow forgot to publish**

Thursdays = Embalming lab

I don't think I can stress that enough :D I really do enjoy getting down and dirty on our cases. There are just sooo many interesting things to learn from them....

One week, our case had sunken eyeballs; actually, they were deflated eyeballs. Apparently, this issue is normally addressed after injecting fluids because they might plump back up. But since we are in a learning environment and technically speaking, we wouldn't be able to see what happened after the case was arterially embalmed because the 3rd semester students are doing that, I got to the opportunity to inject some tissue filler in the eyeball of the case our table was working on! Normally we just insert an eyecap for each eye but this case, the eyes were deflated!  It was the coolest thing! It was like a deflated basketball and then you add enough air to fill it back up, except it's an EYEBALL and I'm using a permanent filler that hardens after a few minutes so you can't just remove some if you've injected too much :/ At first I thought I wasn't going to put the needle in fast enough (the eyeball is kinda slippery, oh dontcha know) and then I thought I was going to inject too much of the stuff, but I went slow enough to prevent overfilling. And voila - back to normal....well, not "normal" as the eye was a bit clouded and grey, but normal for us.

Embalming lab has solidified my decision to be in the Funeral Industry. I can hardly wait for my apprenticeship and get to work in the prep room everyday and not just one day of the week!

Let the bodies hit the floor...

**another old post that i forgot to publish the day that this actually transpired. stupid brain**

I am really excited that I get to go on a body run....

Body run? Well, that is to say, make the trip to the go pick the cases we work on for the day's lab.

Large refrigerators. Bodies everywhere. The smell of advanced decomp - wow. Even with refrigeration, the smell was so overwhelming and unlike anything I've ever experienced before. Granted, these cases (P.A.) have been in there for quite some time; remember that our cases have been deceased anywhere between 2-8 weeks (the norm was closer to 5 or 6 weeks) - unlike working in a mortuary where the cases are relatively "fresh" in being more recently deceased (few hours to a couple days or so). And yes, that makes a big difference!

Because these remains have been deceased for so long, it affects what we do in lab -from washing the body (skin slip) to raising the vessels (fragile arteries, hard to find arteries), choosing the fluids & the results of distribution/lack thereof. We get to be more creative*, perhaps. (*I say that without having any experience in a mortuary).

Anyhow, it was a real eye opener to see so many identified, unclaimed deceased remains all in one place. It was kinda sad that these people didn't have anyone to claim them as their family. Or, for whatever the reason, they've lost contact with their loved ones and now in death, don't have someone to claim them. At least we (students) have the opportunity to show them some respect, even if they are only going to be cremated. Without our cases, we wouldn't be able to learn from them. I'm sure we'd have some other way to facilitate learning how to embalm, but I kinda like that we get the outcasts and unclaimed. It has made me appreciate my family more and I'm sure I'll appreciate my future position as an apprentice working on fresher cases.

Ok, back to studying...

29 September 2010

Night before working on the Dead

Femoral Artery

Linear Guide:
An imaginary line extending from the center of the inguinal ligament to the medial margin of the condyle of the femur.

Place of incision:
The parallel incision is made along the linear guide about one third the distance from the pubis symphysis to the anterior superior spine of the iliac crest, a few inches below the inguinal ligament.

Anatomical Guide:
The artery courses through the center of the femoral triangle. The artery is located medial to the sartorius muscle and lateral to the adductor longus muscle.

Ugh. This is my memorization for the evening, for my oral recitation of the Vascular Guide for the Femoral Artery. The guide(s) are supposed to help us locate where to make the incision and where to look for the artery so we can "raise" & ligate them. I should have memorized it this weekend. Nope. I totally forgot - it slipped my mind to study for Emb Lab :/ but at least I studied for the other exams. (This week: 4 down, 2 more to go).

Anyhow, thought I'd share what I've been so worried and why I complain about reciting these guides to my professor. I totally clam up. I can recite it to my friends, but once I'm there, in my full gear of PPE's (Personal Protective Equipment), working (hard!) on raising the week's assigned vessels and then to be pulled to the side to recite the guides.....AAAAHHHHHHHHH!!! I get so flustered and nervous!!! Terrible! And, this week is an "easier" week, since we only need to recite ONE guide; we normally to 2.

I'm tired. I'm hungry....no bueno. We'll see how I do manana- back on Position #1: Rt & Lft Common Carotid Artery. Hopefully I will be able to raise the Facial Artery as well :D

25 September 2010

2nd Semester Mort Sci: Strikes Back

*Be Advised* Star Wars references are littered throughout ;)
And Embalming is the topic, fyi.

Oh where, oh where do I even begin......

It was A Long Time Ago... since I've updated any info. I totally blame 1st semester finals, excitement for overcoming the 1st semester, moving, and my summer school days(8am-8pm; NEVER again, I say) for the lack of entries!

Let me bring you up to light speed....

...fast forward thru summer school (traumatizing, really. this is when living in the Norco area totally sucked- the 91 FWY. need i say more?) and here we are at the end of WEEK 5 of Fall 2010. Where did the time go by? 1st semester went by sooooooo slow. But now, I've really got to get working on fine tuning my non-existent time management skills because we are about to break the Millenium Falcon's Kessel Run of 12 Parsecs! (can't say i didn't warn you about the SW's references!)

So - 2nd Semester....
Embalming I (with Lab)
Restorative Art I (with Lab)
Embalming Anatomy & Pathology II
Management II (1st 9weeks)
Mortuary Law I (2nd 9weeks)
Thanatology II (2nd 9 weeks)
For a grand total of 18 units.

This is what I have been waiting for. Restorative Art & Embalming I.
I am being totally honest when I say that words escape me when describing how wonderous and amazed I am to be working on cases this semester. I thought we were going to arterial embalm cases this semester- don't really know why I was led to believe that- but in actuality we are *preparing the remains for the 3rd semester students, who will be doing the arterial injection & cavity embalming.

*Preparation includes: thorough disinfection, washing & bathing of the remains; "raising" & ligating the vessels for arterial injection, minor aspiration and setting the features.

["Raising" the vessels: making methodical & precise incisions according to linear and anatomical guides to locate, carefully bring up/raise & expose arteries through the incision; securing raised vessels with twine/string for easier access when the vessel is needed for injection.
Aspiration: removing fluid and gases from select regions of the body. For us 2nd semesterites, that would mean using the Nasal Aspirator to remove excess fluid & semi-solids from the nasal/mouth/throat cavities.
Setting or posing the features: restoring the facial features to represent a natural but NOT a "life-like" state.]

Oh, where we get our cases from. You cannot "donate" your body to the program like you can for medical use as a cadaver (and even then most of those programs are full - or so i've been told). We get our cases from L.A. county. They are people who have been I.D.'d but not claimed by family or friends or maybe they don't have either. The county does everything they can to locate all possible avenues to give any surviving kin their rights to grieve and bury their loved one. But if the next of kin is not found, the state disposes of the deceased remains by means of cremation and buries the cremated remains in a designated, marked grave. For example, for all the cases cremated this month, all the cremated remains will go into a grave and marked SEPTEMBER 2010. So, why not allow us Mortuary Science students work on these indigent cases and learn a thing or two?
And my goodness.....how much I've learned in the past few weeks in Lab have been great!
Such as: it all comes back down to food. almost everything has some sort of reference to food!!! It makes sense, really. How do you learn something that you have never done and how do you relate that something so you can have some sort of expectation? With food references, of course!

What else have I learned? To take a break.  I've decided to take ONE whole day out of the weekend to not look at anything school related (study-wise). I love school and I totally realize the importance of being focused and the sacrifices one makes for their career. It is totally worth it.

Okay. I think that is enough for now. If you want to know anything, just ask. Sometimes - most of the time actually - I forget that just because I'm interested in ALL the gorey details and I am immersed in this for most of my week/life, does not mean that YOU ALL are interested in it as much as I am. Surely, you are curious- you are reading this blog. But to the extent that I am? Perhaps not.