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.

20 May 2010

Almost done!

3 more finals and the semester will be done!
So exciting!!!! Next week, we have Accounting(Management I) and Fun. Service Ceremonies. Ugh. Both, in my opinion, to be equally challenging.

I was hoping to add information along the way this semester, such as informational tidbits here and there- I mean, I think that was the whole point of having this blog, right? To share with you the creepily fascinating crap I learn along the way? But man, has it been rough! I went out about 3, maybe 4 times this semester, and when I say 'out' I mean that an opportunity was taken to go outside the house for a function not of or pertaining to escuela. I think it also has to do with the fact that there really is A LOT of info that we learn, I would have been posting at least twice a day!

Hmmmm, what I will do is blog about the tidbits individually in various things as separate posts, that way it is not in one big post.

better get started!

22 January 2010

Of life and death...

I probably should start off with the how, what, where & why in my decision to follow the path that I have chosen.

For as long as I could remember, I had an extremely high interest in the sciences, especially forensic science, virology/microbiology & anatomy. In high school I took the ASVAB test because I had considered joining the Army just so that I could work at USAMRIID (The United States Army Medical Research Institute for infectious diseases) which would allow me access to the highest level biohazard cases (level 4). Now, I'm just glad that I didn't join the Army. Unfortunately, I never did extremely well academically. But, I also discovered that I had a knack for doing makeup.

My first clients were friends who needed their makeup done for high school dances or special ocassions. After high school, I did what everyone else did and went to college. I also partied waaaaaaaaaay toooooooo much. Screwed up a scholarship (arrrgh. i dunt wanna talk bout it, mmmkay?). At the time, as many do, I wasn't thinking about my future and vulnerabilities. I was young and having lots of fun. I continued to do makeup during this time until I finally just decided to give Cosmetology school a try, without realizing that Cosmo school was strictly for hairdressers (cue the trumpet - wah, waaaah, waaaaaaaah). Oh well. I transferred from a run down laundry mat excuse for a school and then graduated from Paul Mitchell The School after completing the requisite 1600 hours. After chopping through a lot of red tape (needing paperwork from the old school and them putting it off as long as possible due to my recruiting 4 students and a teacher to go with me to PMTS; they were pissed that I took a few sources of their income and they wanted me a little revenge), I passed my state boards (practical & written) and received a license. Afterward, I did a year long stint at a salon; didn't really like it.

During the red tape phase I could not work at a salon so I got a job at Diedrich Coffee at what was then Crystal Court. Now that I think of it, because of DC, we've met more than likely due to the condition of one of the following: you were either a regular customer, a coworker, a trainee for new store, my boss/direct supervisor/shift lead, or as a 6th degree association via D's. Good times at D's. So much so that I didn't want to work in a salon setting and instead I climbed up the hierarchy of corporatelandia until I had my own store.
Being the boss had its perks: because I was still doing makeup, I could make the schedule to reflect that schedule for my work on weddings, quinceaneras, films(for students at OCC & then CSULB) and other special ocassions such as Halloween. My favorite by far was being on set of many CSULB films, especially anything that required fancy work. A favorite of mine of course is replicating the side effects of being an undead creature, especially Zombies. Some might say an obsesssion. I say an overt fondness of :)

Anyhow, you get the jist. It was always (and continues to be) a privilege of mine to either bring out your best face forward, enhancing ones beauty OR deliberately flawing your mug and transforming you into a ghoul. Fun, Fun, Fun.

Now, we're getting closer to the good stuff.

You've probably been to a funeral. In my case, I've been to several.

Have you ever wondered why the deceased looks the way they do, either when they look like they are asleep or especially when they look terrible? Okay, I know that they are dead, but was how they came to pass the reason why they looked they way they did? Who is the one who actually has a hand in the way they look? Is it a makeup artist? The Funeral Director? And why did the families decide to have an open casket when they look especially bad?

I do. Every single funeral I've been to. Whether it was of a natural cause or self inflicted/induced or a progressively fatal disease. Drug addictions. Suicides. The cancer stricken. Heart attack. Diabetes. Car accidents. Old age.

Funerals are a way to fascilitate our human condition & need for closure, a way to close a chapter in our book so to speak. We have a chance to feel an immediate variety of emotions upon hearing when a loved one has just passed - anger, grief, relief, happiness, or sometimes nothing at all. When there is a viewing, it will literally be the final time you will see this person and many times, this is the way you instantly & will always remember them as, especially if there is a gap in time from the last time you saw them alive & breathing. Yes, you have your memories of the deceased; that is not what I am referring to.

I've participated in at least two conversations per funeral that I have attended in regards to how the person looked. Having a positive or favorable viewing experience is easy to forget. If they looked "as if they were sleeping" or "natural", then this I would catagorize as a favorable experience. Because they look this way, its easier for you to mourn and in time, to heal. But, if you can go on and on and on and on about how awful or terrible someone looks, then this I most certainly will catagorize this as a unfavorable experience. This may and can certainly make the experience harder to deal with.

I like to believe that I have a particularly healthy association with death. Our death is eventual; we can all agree that in this natural world, we will all die sooner or later. I am a hypocrite however, in the respect that I can see the death of others, and not my beloved friends & family, in a more clinical, diagnostic & scientific way. When it comes to my family & friends, of course this association kinda goes out the window. I will grieve and it all depends on my relationship & degree of closeness to the deceased.

About 5 years ago, it hit me: I thought that since I'm a makeup artist and with my experience, how much different could it be from working on a live model? Maybe it would be better since they can't talk back. 3 years ago I found myself close to unemployment and thought that this was my chance to figure out what to really do with myself. I decided to go back to school, went and saw the health science counselor for paperwork on the prereq's and such. And this is how my curiosity is now turning into a career.

I want to be able to help you and the community during your time of need. I think everyone should have a better acceptance of death in general. I'm hoping this blog will serve as a forum for you as well, if you have any questions in regards to the profession, please feel free to ask and of course if I don't know the answer I will find out and let you know.
Those working in this profession are not restricted to just working with the dead. Who is it that comes in to a funeral home to make arrangements. I'm hoping its not a zombie and in fact a live person. Embalmers receive an education that include not only embalming, restorative art, public health, anatomy&physiology, microbio & chemistry but also:
business management, mortuary law, business law, ethics, grief psychology, the history of funeral service, trends of the past and future, counseling skills, interpersonal communications.
Once you learn how, embalming is the easy part. Dealing with the living is much harder. If you have ever worked customer service or retail, you know exactly what I'm talking about.