Self respect starts with caring for others in a dignified fashion.
Don't even think about tossing this in the trash!
Since everything in healthcare is governed by money, I suppose this is the
Alice, my favorite OR supervisor taught me how to care for an amputated limb many years ago. Alice could be a mean, cantankerous taskmaster, but I agree with her wholeheartedly about showing care and respect for an amputated body part. Despite their harsh appearances, old school nurses had and an innate sensitivity and were determined do-gooders.
When it came time to care for my first amputation patient in the OR, Alice was on hand for direction. "The first order of business is to line up 2 carts just outside the OR. One cart is for patient transport ant the other is used to transfer the amputated leg to the morgue. I don't ever want to see one of my nurses toting a large specimen through the halls like it was a suitcase. You will reap enough negative Karma to burden you forever with that trick." That last line said with Alice's all-knowing conviction made me shiver in my OR shoe coverings as I imagined an amputated limb coming back to haunt me. You better believe I conducted myself with dignity when showing respect to that amputated leg.
I carefully placed the amputated leg smack dab in the middle of the cart and carefully covered it with a white sheet. The trip to pathology was uneventful until I nudged open the door to the morgue and found the pathologist in the midst of an autopsy. He had just plopped a liver on the overhead scale when he noticed me and nonchalantly asked, "what can I do for you?" I stuttered and stammered that I was here with a large surgical specimen. He called over to a resident and advised , "Take aerobic and anaerobic cultures and some tissue for microscopy then show the nurse how to put the leg at rest."
One of the hospital board members was a funeral director and donated a very nice metal casket to the hospital for one specific purpose; the dignified burial of amputated limbs. After the path resident obtained his specimens the amputated leg was wheeled over to the elevated casket in the back corner of the cooler. I gently raised the substantial lid of the coffin and gently nested the severed limb inside. There were a number of other limbs resting comfortably in the ice cold casket and when I was finished with the transfer I covered them all back up with a hand knitted shawl lovingly crocheted by a dedicated member of the Ladies Auxiliary. The limbs were at peace.
The hospital purchased plots at a nearby cemetery where the limbs were carefully buried when the casket was full. I was curious how often burials occurred and was advised it was an annual event complete with a religious official and a few of the path personnel to show their respects.
Years ago I entertained myself with notions of working again as a nurse, but as I thought of the money grubbing corporations running the show my mind did an abrupt 180. My values come from a different place in time and although I failed many, I think my heart was in the right place. I plain just don't believe in nursing the way it's practiced today and the image of treating limbs like trash haunts me.
I remember, very early on in my career, doing a dressing change on an old diabetic patient with a gangrenous foot...ReplyDelete
Sure enough, as I gently unwound the voluminous Kerlex dressing, one of the gentleman's toes came off with the dressing.
No blood, no muss, no fuss.
I remember being stunned and awed, and thinking "Now what the h*** do I do with it?!?!"
You can be sure I treated it with respect!
Thank you .ReplyDelete
In my day amputated body parts were incinerated at the hospital - but now we actually get reports in the newspapers of amputated limbs being found at public council dumps. I'm with you & cantankerous Alice on this one OFRN & glad I'm long out of the hospital system quite honestly! SueReplyDelete
I suppose incinerating body parts in a dignified manner would be similar to cremation. I guess that would be OK as long as the limb is separated from the nasty detritus of other hospital waste. Just tossing something as significant as a limb in the trash stream really creeps me out.ReplyDelete
I sometimes wondered what conclusions future anthropologists would come up with if a dig in the next millennium unearthed a cache of interred limbs. Now that could prove interesting.
Patients grieve over the loss of a limb, but I'm not sure they care about what happens to it once it's off.ReplyDelete
Feelings related to loss of a limb are probably diverse and vary from patient to patient.Delete
Treating severed body parts with respect did make old school surgeons and nurses feel a whole lot better about the messy business of amputations. Today, so many of the feel good aspects of healthcare have been derailed by dollar signs. I'm certain it's a lot cheaper to toss a severed leg in the trash than lease a cemetery plot and bury it. Times change, but not always for the better.