“Wait, you go into people’s houses and get bodies?”
Corpse logistics seem to fascinate everyone I talk to. So grab a spare pair of panties because this Q&A is gonna blow your butthole.
Where do you pick up bodies?
Anywhere someone dies. Hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, personal residences, cars, boats, rivers, woods…
Do you go in the hearse?
The hearse is generally reserved for funeral services. (Bringing a casketed body to a church or cemetery.) Most funeral homes do removals in ordinary Mom vans to be a little more discreet/not scream HEY SOMEONE CROAKED HERE. Every family finds this super weird for 5 seconds and then decides it’s way better to be incognito.
Why doesn’t the medical examiner bring the bodies to you?
The medical examiner is only needed if a death is unwitnessed or suspicious. If Grandma Betty dies warm in her bed after losing a battle to cancer, the doctor working her case is considered the certifier. (Person who signs the Death Certificate.) If Uncle Bob is found hunched over in the back of his closet next to a stack of Blair Witch stick people, the police on the scene call the medical examiner to determine the cause of death.
How do you even move a body by yourself?
Three lines of cocaine and a prayer. Nah, if a body is in a hospital bed, all you need to do is slide it onto your cot, pulling the sheets toward you. It’s surprisingly easy for bodies that are 250 lbs or less. If the body is heavier, I generally ask a nurse or security guard to help pull. If the family chooses to WATCH YOU pull their loved one onto a cot, I ask for help no matter the body size to make the transition as graceful as possible.
(Quick story, one time a son wanted to watch us move his father onto the cot. Dad was a big boy, and even though he was in a bed, the nurse and I struggled. I made eye contact with the son while this was all going down and said, “Bet your dad never thought he would have two women all over him.” AND THE SON LOVED IT. Sometimes you need to break the tension, and you just have to sense what will fly with the personalities in the room.)
Moving a body gets tricky when people die in awkward positions – in a recliner, face-down in a bath tub, on the third floor of a house. Add obesity into the mix and it’s a party! For these more challenging cases, you need help, extra sheets to cocoon the body (to provide lifting handles) and/or a portable cot to wrap around the body.
You wrap a body simply by pulling the person toward you, holding their hip and shoulder while your helper tucks sheets under them. I showed my entire family how to do this at Christmas and we carried my husband around the family room.
Is it weird walking into someone’s home to take their dead loved one away?
Sometimes no. Sometimes yes. You know within the first 3 seconds after that door opens what the answer is. Some families are welcoming, gracious and loving, telling you stories about their dead wife or brother as you load them up on the cot. I’ve even played fetch with a dog while filling out “removal of a corpse” paperwork. Other families have Everybody Loves Raymond blasting while they sit around their dead loved one and wordlessly stare as you pray to God you don’t make a wrong move.
Are you like, answering your phone at 3am?
Not directly. We have an answering service that takes all the after-hours calls. What’s nice is that you get a FIRST CALL IN PROGRESS warning text that scares you awake, then 3-5 minutes to wake up as the agent gathers the information: name, location, weight, infectious diseases, contact numbers, etc. When the recorded message comes in, you save it, play it, and phone the caller back with an ETA.
How much time do you have to get somewhere?
If it’s an in-town location, I like to be there in 30 minutes. So when I get that FIRST CALL IN PROGRESS text, I jump out of bed, brush my teeth, get dressed and wait for the call to be delivered. It’s devastating when that call says “BODY NOT READY YET, ORGAN DONOR.” Once I somehow got to a facility in Appleton in 30 minutes and the entire family thought I was a vampire. So what if I am?
What if you miss a call?
YOUR BACKUP HATES YOU. You have about 10-15 minutes to “save” a Death Call when it comes in on the app. If you don’t save it, the Answering Service assumes you’re asleep/busy/away from your phone/a douche and calls you. If that phone call doesn’t get your attention, the agent then calls your backup team-member. If THAT person misses the call, the boss gets woken up. 😉
So you just rock up to a house with a cot like, bring out yer dead?
When you arrive at someone’s personal residence, you always go inside empty-handed to meet the family first and answer any questions. You then get a lay of the land, assess how tight the turns are, see if there are obstacles, etc. Then you fill out paperwork, ask the family for their permission to bring the cot in, give them the option of leaving/staying/helping, and do the damn thang!
What about hospitals?
Generally you enter through the ambulance bay to access a hospital room OR the back loading dock to get to the morgue. Most people in hospitals do not *love* seeing a corpse cot, so we try to use all the back access points.
Was it creepy driving a dead body around for the first time?
Nope, they are excellent riders and never backseat drive. It did startle me the first time I braked too hard and the cot slid and hit me in the kidneys. I always apologize to my corpses when I stop short.
Have you ever dropped a body?
Once. And it happens to everyone. I was on a very public street about to load into the van when the cot hit an uneven part in the pavement. I turned too suddenly and saw the cot flip over in slow motion. There was no way I could lift it back up on my own – this would have been the equivalent of flipping a Target cart filled with 275 lbs of La Croix. I looked across the street, saw a police car AND RAN AT HIM, knocking on his window, terrifying him, and saying CAN YOU HELP ME WITH A BODY. Then importantly added I AM FROM A FUNERAL HOME.
When he drove over he laughed at my mistake and said, in a very Tommy Boy way, WHAT DID YOU DO?! Then he admitted literally everyone drops bodies in that exact place. So, there you go.