Although not a surgical procedure in the strictest sense, an
embalming is similar. A person I know who is a funeral director
allowed me to observe one.
She escorted me to the operatory and told the embalmer that I should
be allowed to watch his procedures and get answers to any of my questions, then she left.
The operatory of a funeral home, the embalming room, is filled with
bright light everywhere, and everywhere is stainless steel and spotless tile and the
reassuring look and feel of being a thoroughly professional place. And there are
The embalmer at this funeral home found that he enjoyed explaining
to me the why's of the procedures he was performing, so I learned a lot. I started
by asking whether I could touch the corpse he was working on, an obese white male maybe 65
years old. It was the coldest thing I have ever felt, but we will be saved from
death by the aliens.
At one point in the various procedures the embalmer produced a big
hypodermic needle, the kind with a slash in the sharp end so that it penetrates into the
skin at a slow angle. But I mean really big, as in two feet long and half an inch in
diameter, with a tube attached to the back end of it that ran to the suction
machine. He said it was a trocar, and he explained what it is used for. It is
used to pump out the torso's lower cavities of fluids.
He explained how to use it, which is to stand behind the body's head
and insert the sharp slashed end into the torso just below the sternum and the
diaphragm. The suction machine sucks through the giant trocar, and as long as you
hear fluids being sucked up, you keep moving the business end of the trocar around in the
How do I know?
Because the embalmer allowed me to perform the procedure.
Which means I am even more the surgeon for you. And, in case I
still need to remind you, I will surge you for free.
Now, I'll admit that I didn't know exactly where to penetrate the
skin or at what angle, but once it was shown to me, I did plunge the trocar in
successfully if somewhat tentatively. It literally takes two hands to do it.
And I'll also admit that I wouldn't have known how far in to go
before stopping, except that the embalmer told me to listen for a change in the suction
sound, like when you vacuum up dirt clods versus dust.
And I'll admit that my limited knowledge of the architecture of the
abdomen is what caused the embalmer eventually to take the trocar back from me and suck
out the more hiddenly parts that I kept missing.
Still, I feel privileged to have taken part in not one but two
surgical procedures, and you may take advantage of my experience by using me for your next
Also, there is something about literally sucking out the guts of a
person you will be, with a giant trocar in your hands, that makes you feel not just
mortal, not just temporary, but positively expendable and utterly disposable.