WEEK TWO: The Preparation

Yajaira G -

Hi Everyone!!!!

This week was fascinating to me, and I hope it is for you too!! This Wednesday 2/21 I got to the office at around 7 am. What I typically do when I get there is go and change into scrubs and switch my shoes out. Afterward, I walk into the morgue. When I walk into the morgue, either the cases for that day are already there, or they get taken out of the morgue freezer. Then the preparation begins.

First, they review any documents or records about the case. Then they bring the deceased into the morgue. Typically, there is a seal to the body bag which keeps it closed. The seal will either have an identifying number or it’ll be written down on the body bag with a name. This is to help identify who the deceased is. The seal or body bag is then opened. From there, they take photographs of the body the way it is in the bag. Then they proceed to document every item that the deceased has on them. They document the color of clothing, the type of clothing, jewelry, anything within the pockets, eye color, hair color, and height. They also will photograph some of their items such as the contents within a wallet. It is crucial because it is helpful to have a record of any apparent injuries or evidence before the body is formally opened up during an investigation after death. Let’s say the decedent has any type of medical equipment, the morgue assistant will not remove it until the doctor tells them to do so. This is because the doctor will write down any scars, tattoos, external injuries, or objects that the person has on them, again to have records of it.

Once they are all done documenting everything about the deceased, they will begin the autopsy process. Before anything, we will put on PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). Then they begin removing the clothing from the deceased and putting it into a bag. Then they begin taking blood samples for toxicology. There are three different types of blood samples they may take: Femoral, Subclavian, and Cardiac. They tend to go in order first attempting to take samples from the femoral, if unable to do so they will move onto the subclavian, and if that also doesn’t work they will get cardiac. I was able to learn how to take these samples and took samples from the cases on Wednesday. At first, I struggled a little bit to get the samples just because it was my first time and it’s new to me but I did it. I was able to take samples from all three sites that day. This was very fascinating. Another sample they take is vitreous; this sample is taken from the eye. They take this sample to also send it to toxicology in hopes of analyzing the potassium, sodium, chloride, and glucose for the evaluation of electrolyte imbalances and hyperglycemia.  Some research states it is also used for estimation of time since death. I too was able to take this sample. My questions are: How does toxicology examine the samples? What does toxicology look for?

Finally, before or after the autopsy, they take fingerprints. Taking fingerprints is very important since it is one of the methods they use for identifying a person. I was able to learn and help do fingerprints as well. Personally, before doing them at the morgue, I already did not enjoy doing fingerprints, I find them to be very difficult to do and tedious. But even with the challenge of not liking to do fingerprints, I was able to successfully help do them.

This week was filled with having hands-on experience with most of the preparation.

Next week I will go even more in-depth over the exam process!

Thank you for reading!!!

Pinal County Medical Examiner's Handbook

Picture of the book I will be reading for the week :).


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    Wow Yajaira, That is absolutely fascinating! It is so cool that you are already getting the hands-on experience of taking samples. Can't wait to hear how this week goes for you.
    Wow, that's amazing! How are the blood samples taken? Is it through a syringe or something else?
    Amazing Yajaira! I am so glad you're learning so much and gaining hands-on experience like getting the vitreous sample and blood samples as well!
    Sofia R
    That is so so cool that you get to help with the examination! What PPE do you have to wear?
    Hi Yajaira! I am beyond impressed with everything you are doing so far. Personally I think the entire process sounds considerably difficult, so I am amazed to see that you helped out with the examination. :)
    Hi Edie!! The blood samples are taken through 20 ml syringes, which are then put into test tubes.
    Hi Sofia! The PPE that I wear consists of an apron, mask, gloves, arm sleeve protectors, shoe covers, and a face shield.

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