Now What Did I do with That Body?

Yes I lost a body. Well I didn’t exactly lose it myself. I just didn’t know where it was.
A few decades ago (I love being old enough to talk in decades), I was an evening supervisor of a hospital. It was a great job. In those days staffing was stabilized and when we were busy we worked like crazy. When things slowed down so did we. Nowadays as soon as there is a dip in activity nurses are redirected so they always function at peak levels. There is no restorative period and this leads to exhaustion, depression and a general dissatisfaction.
The only exception to this is still critical care areas where the one to one ratio still exists.
Most of the employees were happy then, regardless of what went on in their personal lives, and the evening shift in particular seemed that way. My job was to make rounds, act as a resource, teach and mentor. It was a pleasure to go to work!
We had a procedure, of course, for when a patient died. The doctor was called in to pronounce, the nurses contacted the family and confirmed arrangements such as which funeral home.
One evening a family doctor was called for such an event. He was an old country doc from a little village outside the city, and most of his patients were of his generation. These were people he took on when a fresh new GP forty years previously. And they all aged together. And they were friends.
He phoned the family and promised to stop by their house on the way home. He also told me he wanted to get the funeral home details. It was a sad time as he was also grieving a friend, but it also was heart warming and I agreed.
About an hour later I got a call from switchboard saying the funeral home staff had arrived to pick up the deceased. About an hour after that they called again to inform me the death certificate had been left behind. So I head up to the floor to ask the nurse the name off the Home. She didn’t know and neither did other staff or switchboard or the orderlies or the gardener. There was no gardener. But no one knew.
One cannot proceed with a funeral without a certificate. One cannot proceed with anything!
Well I’m figuring I am a pretty smart cookie. After all I am the boss. Think Chris. Think. So I pull out the yellow pages and start calling funeral homes. After the first dozen calls I realized two things: this wasn’t going to be so easy, and the ever kind compassionate soft voiced Directors of such establishments aren’t so pleasant when the business isn’t theirs.
Finally I completed the list with no success. I tried outside the city – no luck.
I tried calling the doc but he wasn’t home and did not carry a pager.
There was only one call left to make and it had to be done carefully and tactfully.
I called the family.
Introducing myself I gave my condolences and talked about things that the patient had said during his hospitalization and asked where he would be resting. They were so glad for my call and after a chat gave the info I needed.
It was a Home forty miles away!
Everything got done. And I learned that when a family does not come to hospital following the death of a loved one, to give them a call. It was a rough way to discover that the care we deliver goes beyond the confines of any hospital.

32 thoughts on “Now What Did I do with That Body?”

  1. You handled the situation very well. Working in the medical field myself, emergeny dept-I can relate with your experience. It’s always a benefit when you take that extra moment to make a difference in one’s life-and its all in your disposition and how you handle any given situation. Good post !

  2. Hello again Chris. Yet another lovely post. I too have wondered if you are posting as blog a day and now I know.
    Yours is the kind of caring that I see at the Hospice. Don’t have anything to do with the general hospital but I suspect the nurses are harried here as in your part of the world. At the hospice the nurse/patient ratio is so much better.

    1. Thankfully hospice is staffed at a better ratio to be able to give quality care and caring. Having time to comfort is factored in. It is also one of the highest stress nursing jobs as the nurse is always in some level of grieving all the time. Takes a special kind of person to do that.

  3. Your stories are always vividly recalled and written from such an honest and “real” perspective. It makes your stories come alive, and that’s what I love about your blog. 🙂

    How you remember things from so long ago is lost on me. I can’t even remember what I had for lunch today!

    1. I don’t how I remember except I usually tell those experiences to friends..that may be why it for lunch I we are in the same boat! 🙂

  4. A sad occasion that ended in a well handled, delicate way… You did a great job.. Thanks for adding this post to the blog hop.
    I’ve added a new blog hop. Do stop by to add your links.

  5. Great story — that call could have been horrible for the family, but you handled it with grace and compassion and turned it into something positive.

      1. Thank you Chris! I’m finally “getting into the full swing mode!” with my blog! I’ve got all kinds of things I’m going to be adding to it! Thank you!

  6. Good thinking, and you handled the situation very compassionately. I think hospital administration thinks of their work as a business (and they have to), but when dealing with life and death situations, a little compassion goes a long way.

  7. That family probably talked about your kind call for days if not months! They likely held other health care professionals to your standard!! I love how you described the nursing days and the restorative process. I want my health care professionals to be happy with what they are doing, and have the energy to do it. I agree with Joss, post this !!! for administrations to see!

    1. What they would do today is hire another position for this which would continue the skyrocketing cost of healthcare. I am so on the edge of doing rants on healthcare which I try to avoid as it would definitely give a different flavor to my blogs and I would like to stay easy reading stuff. Although I could do a separate blog for that. The hue and cry needs to be “back to basics”. Well if I don’t stop now I won’t. Sigh

  8. oh to have this ‘story’ posted in every hospital as a reminder that the touch of human kindness, the voice of care, impacts so many lives.
    walk in beauty.

  9. You are smart and definitely a problem solver. Well done!!!

    So sad the profit makers and corporate bean counters hold sway and don’t understand true caring.

    Question are you doing postaday. I keep looking for posts from you, but don’t find them.

  10. Another excellent post thanks for sharing! I enjoy reading your blog very much. Spending time with my family is something I love to do. Feel free to stop by Easy Lifestyles sometime. We would love to see you there

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