The first cut into a cadaver
…A new smell brought me back. It began faintly, almost sweetly at first. Then, as we moved deeper down the hallway, it pushed aside the other smells, increasing slowly until it pinched. Formaldehyde. The odor wouldn’t stop growing, now piercing my nostrils, burning with every breath. Just then we stopped before two large, gray, metal doors. For the longest moment, nothing happened. Then, swinging back without a sound, the doors melted away, revealing a cavernous room filled with forty black, stone slab tables, each with a harsh metal light hanging over it. On every table lay a still, silent figure wrapped in white linens. Death hung palpably in the air…
Pronouncing death for the first time
…Just as I was heading to the on call room to try to grab an hour or two of sleep, the beeper on my belt went off. I stopped at the nearest nursing station to call the extension number on the beeper display.
“Dr. Sheff,” the voice on the other end of the phone began, “Mr. Walters in 217 has just expired. Could you please come pronounce him?”
“He was a no code. Came in with end stage cancer.”
“I’ll be up in a few minutes.”
No need to rush in responding to this call, I thought. On the way up to the second floor, the phone call played over again in my head…