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if the dead could talk....chapter 1
I will never EVER forget the first autopsy that I witnessed. The old Cuban pathologist who was in charge of us back then had a sort of gentleman's agreement with the lab director. AP gave Sammy K the go-ahead to do the advance work with the saws and stuff so all he had to do was look at the gross afterwards. One day he invited all of us kids down to witness the dismembering of a very stiff old gentleman in the abyss of the basement known as the morgue. A few of us shuffled on down in our lab coats and made our way into the dark tiled room for a look-see.

This was about 28 years ago when it was big business to ascertain the cause of death, even if it was painfully obvious that old dude was elderly and had lived the hard life of a farmer, factory worker or other manual laborer all the while sustaining himself with meals cooked in lard and seasoned with bacon grease. Perhaps he or his family got too big a dose of the chemicals used to treat the crops or the rubber at the day job and cancer took over. Maybe one of 'em had histoplasmosis or the consumption. It was all about nailing down the cause of death and forwarding said information to the coroner so that the death certificate could be issued. Maybe the insurance would pay a little on the funeral and the survivors could eat for a year or so.

SK was a heavy smoker at the time, and you never found him without one dangling out of the corner of his mouth, even in the morgue. This was about six years before we ever got called into a big emergency meeting to announce the discovery of HIV and other evil bloodborne pathogens. He took a scalpel and cut old dude's face from one side to the other, peeling back the flesh to expose his skull. Then came the powertools. The smell of the saw grinding bone into dust mixed with formaldehyde was nauseating. Plop...out came the brain onto the scales. Just another measurement post-mortem, noted on the hand-written and then hand-typed report. After SK got the innards opened up, it was time for a smoke.

SK located all the internal organs. Big liver... he must've liked the whiskey. Nasty looking appendix. It probably ruptured and scarred years before and old dude survived with the help of penicillin. The lungs were sliced up in sections along with the colon to search under the microscope for evidence of carcinoma. It was right about the time that Sam got to the heart that I noticed his cig had a long ash hanging off that was about to drop right off into old dude's wide open body cavity. Oops! I didn't see anything, did y'all???????

We scurried back upstairs to our boiling test tubes because, frankly, that was just gross. To this day, I can't stand the sight or smell of liver and onions. Autopsies these days are pretty much limited to untimely deaths with suspicion of foul play or congenital defects. We tend to spend more of our time in the lab focusing on diagnosis BEFORE dude is dead to treat disease and enhance quality of life.

I reckon things are looking better for us...and for y'all.
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