Tag Archives: Doctors

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.