The Morgue

The Morgue
The Morgue

This isn’t really a Covid story to say the least. I was working at a hospItal many years before covid. The house supervisor had pulled me off the regular floor that I had been working on and put me down in ER to help out during “rush hour”. I was in triage most of that night putting in IV’s and checking people in when the house super called me. “Hey Patty, can you run upstairs and help out the ICU with a body and transport to the morgue?” I said, “Do I really have a choice?” She said, “no, not really!” I said, “fine.”

I was not really thrilled about it. I had only walked down there maybe once or twice. It was in the basement at the end of this long hallway. It was smaller than an office with a long narrow steel gurney that swiveled so you could get to the freezer that had only two drawers. I wasn’t ever really sure how the steel bed worked, but I did what she asked and went to ICU.

I get up to ICU and see the head nurse. She says, “thank God, I didn’t know who I was going to get to take the body down there and I need that room.” You could tell she was stressed and the ICU was packed. Family members everywhere, alarms going off, I thought “damn I’m glad I’m not up here tonight working.” She then looked up at me and said, “um are you gonna be strong enough?” I said, “Whatchu mean?” She said, “um, let me get one of the guys to at least help you toe tag and body bag her. Oh and make sure her lines are out before you body bag.” I’m thinking, “what the fuck have I gotten myself into?”

The Morgue

I get to the room and this patient is at least 300 pounds! Then I think, “oh hell naw, they gonna have me in here sweating my ass off”. Then one of the students comes walking down the hall, “um I think I’m supposed to help you?!” I said, “Great, How much do you weight? 130?” I’m thinking, “so now they gonna try to kill me!!” I despise training. I don’t feel I’m very good at it, so I don’t do it, or try to get out of it.

I take out all of the corpses IV lines, but one is leaking. I’ll have to wait for it to stop, so I put a weight on it for a few minutes while I toe tag and get the bag ready for the corpse. I ask the student, “okay do you work out at all?” He said, “no not really?” I said, “yea I didn’t think so.” I toe tag and place the bag on one side so I can roll her and pull it under her to the other. She is dead weight, no pun intended. I can tell this dude ain’t going to be any help getting to the morgue. So I said, “hold up I got to get some lift help.”

I walk to the nurses station and get to big guys. They help me get her in the bag and on the gurney, while the student stands there writing notes. Typical. I take off and on my way out I tell the charge, “hey, you can keep this guy.” Pointing at the student. I then tell the student, “stay” and head to the staff elevators.

The student looked like dear in headlights, like I done took his toy away. He started walking towards me. I said, “no you stay here” and the elevator shut as I shook my head. Made it to the morgue and it was very Erie. No noise. Almost like a tomb. I unlock the door and the room is smaller than I remember. I’m scratching my head? How am I going to get this next to the freezer and close enough to put her on the pull out table? Wait how am I gonna get her from the gurney to the pull out table? Damn maybe I should of brought the student.

Okay I move the swivel table out the way and I’m able to get the gurney next to the pull out table with a little maneuvering. Now to get the corpse on the pullout table. The pullout table is roughly six inches below the gurney, I know, I’ll just roll the body and let gravity take over. Yea by this time she is beginning to weight a lot more than three hundred pounds. I attempt to roll her, I barley moved her. “Great!” So I look down the hallway no one there. Oh. I think I got it.

I take a few paces down the hallway to get a running start. And I full force run and push the body enough to let gravity do it’s thing. So she is on the pull out table, who cares if she is face down. They didn’t specify how they wanted her positioned, and I return to the ER to continue to triage. Just another day as a nurse. I was sore for at least a week and a half.


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23 thoughts on “The Morgue

  1. One of my first trips to the morgue was at an old hospital. It was in the basement and around 2 corners. Hallways got smaller lights smaller and then the last corridor has a slope and one light. We almost couldn’t stop the run away stretcher as it careened off of the walls!

  2. What a story. Nursing is a hard job. I couldn’t do it myself, so I’m grateful for people like you who go into the profession. Thankyou for what you do.

  3. Wow! What a story! This is why I couldn’t be a nurse. I wouldn’t be able to deal with something like that. For one, I would get emotional. And two, I don’t know if I would be able to handle such a stressful job in general.

  4. That reminded me of my first “jog” to the mortuary as a student nurse in the 60’s. Quite sure that’s when I started to smoke. Those places are so cold, and dark. Loved the blog,

  5. The enormity of dead weight is a surprise. When my father died at home after oxygen failed, the home nurse-aid left. The doctor was coming to declare him dead. He was naked and my mother tells me to dress him before the doctor comes. I said that the doctor has seen naked people before and won’t care. My mother insisted. He felt like a super heavy piece of warm meat. I don’t know why but it was almost as if I expected him to help. I struggled to hold him up while trying to get a sleeve on. I must have thought that it would be like the movie “A weekend at Bernie’s” where they took the body sailing. So after wrestling with the body to get the clothes on, the doctor comes. He says he’ll leave the death certificate at the hospital and he leaves. The odd thing is that when the two guys from the funeral home come they say “don’t look, it might be disturbing… why don’t you wait on the porch and we’ll tell when it’s OK to come out. ” What could be disturbing… I just finished having a wrestling match with a dead body. I went with my mother to the porch but i peeked. I saw them carry the body out in a black body bag like a lump. One guy at each end, no gurney. I suppose it’s a good thing that no autopsy had to be done. They might not have been able to determine postmortem bruises & lividity(?) pattern etc… They might have concluded that it was death by rough dressing. The Butler did it.

  6. So good you decided to share this story because I think that most people don’t even understand what you nurses have to do in one working day.

  7. I’ve been on both sides of that over the years. While in college, I was an EMT and worked 3-11’s as a tech in an ED and I was the “house morgue guy.” I already knew that I wanted to become a funeral director and was also helping at a local funeral home, so it was a convenient out for the NS. That was 40 years ago and since then, I have moved hundreds of folks either in or out of a morgue. Hopefully, you will never find yourself in that situation again, but if you do, leaving someone, especially a large person face down, may not be the best idea. If the family of the deceased wanted to having a viewing, the body being face down presents a plethora of challenges for the embalmer. I’ll leave it at that😉. Good story and I’m enjoying your willingness to share your experiences.

  8. Ahh, bodies. Never a fun job, and it sounds like you got the full weight of dead weight. Disconnections were snip snips, wait for any leakages to stop…

    We used almost the same technique for changing sheets on a patient’s bed as moving a body – roll to one side, except when you got them to balance on that side (before rigor sets it, you can bend the top leg at the knee and hip to ‘cheat’) then use the sheet to get them rolled *almost* where they belong.

    There’s a reason they call it dead weight. *sighs in Corpsman*

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