Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bring out your dead.

As a cop, I work closely with several types of people that the general population never has the opportunity to meet. Whenever I respond to a crime scene or conduct a substantial investigation, I work alongside a wide array of individuals with very interesting professions. At first glance, they might seem unremarkable, but I've found that they tend to be very interesting once you get to know them.

Night watch doctors are very interesting because they never act how you might expect. On TV, doctors are always good looking, poignant, intelligent, and above all, good at what they do. In real life, the doctors I meet often seem to be only slightly more medicinally qualified than me.



Last week, I was at a small local hospital (which will remain nameless) guarding a gang member who had been shot multiple times and later proved to be mortally wounded from his injuries. The gangster was being attended to by four scared nurses and one crusty old doctor who had apparently just woken up. He had a good three-days beard growth on his face and the hair on the back of his head was matted down, indicating that he had just finished a delightful nap in an unused examination room. Had I been doing a traffic stop on the good doctor, a Breathalyzer test would have been in order.

The doctor spotted me while he was working on the soon-to-be-dead gangster. He suddenly abandoned his post and walked over to inform me of the situation. Removing his bloody gloves, he said in an alarmingly calm voice, "Ya know, it doesn't look very promising." Had I been thinking, I would have asked to see his credentials to make sure he wasn't just some guy who was staying at the local Holiday Inn Express. Minutes later, I saw my partner in the hospital lobby. I told him, "Dude, if I get shot standing right here, I want you to throw me in the black & white and drive me to another hospital."

Of all the people I come into contact with, coroners are by far the most colorful. Not only do they have the best stories, but they also tend to have the best sense of humor. Any coroner will tell you, the worst calls we get are when we have to respond to a senior care facility. Those are the worst because there will usually be a room full of old people lying in beds (think Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) but only one of them is dead. Upon arrival, our job is to examine and make sure said dead person is in fact dead and that there is no evidence of foul play.



If I happen to arrive during scheduled nap time it's even more complicated, because everyone in the room is asleep or dead, and I'm supposed to know which is which. There's nothing quite like walking over to what you expect to be a lifeless body when, without warning, said body sits up and asks you to turn up the volume on Matlock. I've decided the best thing to do from now on is to, upon entering the room, hit my baton against the door frame of the room as hard as I can and look to see who flinches and who doesn't.

One day, I responded to the scene of a suicide. The deceased lived in small, multiple level home, not uncommon in the San Fernando Valley. By the time I was done with my investigation, the family of the departed had gathered outside of her home. Part of my job is to assist the coroners with a swift removal of the body before the family gets too grief stricken and needs to be physically restrained. The coroner who responded was so small and weak, I could tell that I would be doing most of the heavy lifting to get the body out of the house and down the stairs.

The coroner and I wrapped the body discretely into a body bag. We put it onto a gurney and made our way out the front door. As we neared the top of the complex flight of stairs in front of the house, the experienced coroner stopped and looked around to assess the situation. She told me: "Listen, the whole family is standing around watching us. I'm not gonna lie, there's a good chance that you and me are going to drop this body." I was shocked at her complete lack of confidence. Then she said, "If it starts to fall, let it fall. Trust me, I've been doing this for years, it's much better to drop the body and pick it back up than to play hot potato with it on the stairs in front of the family." Fortunately, we made it down the stairs and into the County van without incident.

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25 Comments:

Blogger skh said...

"Good looking, poignant, intelligent, and above all, good at what they do." Add "brutally funny" to the list and there YOU are. Thanks, I think, for the behind the body bag look.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 8:56:00 PM  
Blogger jjohnson said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 9:31:00 PM  
Blogger The Fantastic Daughter-In-Law's Spouse said...

And in your vast experience - you've found accountants to be...?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007 9:35:00 PM  
Blogger Theteak said...

Hey, Weird Al just toured Australia - sadly I missed him.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 2:18:00 AM  
Blogger bean said...

Um, this was a kind of dark/distubing post...however, it was saved by a picture of Weird Al. Anything is better with Weird Al.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

The coroner's advice was the best, because, seriously, that is the kind of wisdom one can only gain through personal experience.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 7:37:00 PM  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

How come those doctors and nurses be like Dr. Joe Early and Nurse Dixie McCall? Every time those emergency guys would call into the hospital, that staff was standing around just ready to receive a trauma.

Fred

Friday, April 27, 2007 9:16:00 AM  
Blogger a suburban housewife said...

So, coroners aren't required to be able to lift a certain amount of weight? Sort of like firefighters?

Friday, April 27, 2007 1:34:00 PM  
Blogger another runner said...

In a weird and disturbing way, I think this was my favorite post yet. It has such an honesty to it, but the humor is still there as well. Well written Pec!

Friday, April 27, 2007 1:55:00 PM  
Blogger clyde said...

Dude. Seriously. This is hilarious. Tell me which hospital later...

Saturday, April 28, 2007 8:33:00 AM  
Blogger The Advocate said...

Well...I certainly hope I don't have to test Mr. Holiday Inn Doctors abilities.

Monday, April 30, 2007 2:15:00 PM  
Blogger BugBlaster said...

Well, now I am starting to care about what happens to my body after I die.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007 3:27:00 AM  
Blogger Lin said...

We need to pay cops more

Saturday, May 05, 2007 7:22:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...

isnt' our job great??!!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007 9:27:00 AM  
Blogger The Advocate said...

Hey Pec! You need to update, even if you do have a real life.

And tell your pal C-Train to update too!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007 10:00:00 PM  
Blogger Seth F said...

Just stopping by. Found your blog from Pyromaniacs, and it is absolutely hilarious! I'm new to the blogosphere. Check out my new theological satire blog if you get a chance (whatum.com).

In Christ,

Seth
Wilmington, DE

Thursday, June 21, 2007 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

I love reading stories about your job. The way you convey the stories of your work with such humor is refreshing. I work in a similar field...one where we rub shoulders with cops and firefighters alike. As an emt, i am one of those who works on the "dead one" in the room full of old people lying in beds, until there is no more hope or figures out that hope left a long time ago, then leaves them for the cops and coroners. Sorry you have to figure out which one it was. And to Fred, yes, there are still doctors and nurses still out there who "stand around ready to receive traumas"...you just have to go to the right hospital with the right injuries in the right ambulance :-) hopefully Dr. Holiday Inn won't be on call that night :)

Sunday, June 24, 2007 3:27:00 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

I am posting just because I feel vindicated for coming here by doing so! ;-P

Tuesday, June 26, 2007 1:11:00 PM  
Blogger redhead83402 said...

I see you are a semi-blogger, much like myself ~ Just can't seem to make blogging such a priority that it happens daily, weekly, or even monthly, usually. However, the quality of those few precious blogger-bits is stellar ~ :-D ~
Anyway, I just stopped by cuz I was looking up fish tank stuff, & happened upon an old entry of yours about ~tank technician woes~ . I must say, I have enjoyed looking through your blog, it's quite good! Funny guy! I might just link to you ~ ( ooohhh ~ ultimate blog-o-compliment ~ :-D )
~Redhead83402

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 2:06:00 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I just feel that I have to counterbalance all the praise you have been receiving from new readers by saying that I am very displeased that it has again been a century since you last posted. :0~ That face has an upset look if you can't tell.

Thursday, June 28, 2007 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger Tony Myles said...

Ever notice how the other grandpa in Willy Wonka seemed to be a bit more medicated than he should have been?

Friday, August 10, 2007 2:01:00 AM  
Blogger The Borg said...

Hilarious! Good stories.

I think I will keep reading this blog precisely because it is arbitrary and random (although it hasn't proved to be that yet).

Saturday, August 11, 2007 8:50:00 PM  
Blogger beachbirdie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Friday, November 30, 2007 6:45:00 AM  
Blogger beachbirdie said...

I just found my way over here from Pyromaniacs. I love your writing and sense of humor. And thanks for your service. Having had a cop in my family (and having worked alongside one for a few years) I have a GREAT appreciation for all of you who put yourselves in the sewers of life ON PURPOSE.

I'm going to pass the link on to one of my kids who is on the way to medical school hoping to end up as a medical examiner. Seriously funny (in a strange way).

Friday, November 30, 2007 6:57:00 AM  
Blogger padraig said...

Making it down the stairs robbed you of your opportunity to be a part of one of those coroner's best stories.

Monday, October 13, 2008 3:12:00 PM  

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