What does classic death look like in Hollywood? The person has a serene face, his eyes are closed, as if he is sleeping. The procedure itself takes place secretly; spectators are usually not allowed to attend.
So the profession of the embalmer is surrounded by myths and facts. And is such a profession really necessary? We will try to debunk some of the myths about her.
All organs are removed during embalming. Some fear that their loved ones will lose their hearts or brains after the embalming procedure. When it comes to embalming, many people usually imagine the ancient Egyptians. It is believed that specialists there managed to remove the brain through the nose, and store the organs in containers. But these were the first attempts at embalming, since then this science has come a long way. The Egyptians had their own, the only goal - to preserve their appearance. Today she is one of many. Conservation has to balance with recovery. Removing the organs might have made the corpse more beautiful, but modern embalming usually doesn't go that far.
If embalming was surgery, it would be considered rather benign. All the embalmer needs is access to the artery, and even there an incision is made by only a couple of centimeters. Do not confuse embalming with an autopsy, when organs are removed, weighed, studied, and sometimes sent for study. This work is done by a pathologist, not an embalmer. After dissection, the organs are placed back into the body, and the embalmer takes over. The modern approach is that this specialist does not remove organs, and this is not necessary for his work.
Dead people can move. Those who have to deal with corpses from time to time (unfortunately, military conflicts still happen) say that they have met with the dead who suddenly assume a sitting position of the body. Is it really possible? You can check it with a simple experiment. You need to lie flat on the floor, and then, using only one abdominal muscle, try to quickly get into a sitting position. It turns out it's not easy! In order for such a movement to occur, several muscles must be involved, their joint work will ensure this body position. Now we need to imagine how a dead man can do it. Any movement of muscles after death is already a miracle in itself, what can we say about their coordinated work? Muscles require energy to relax. This is nothing new, it is in any book on physiology. After death, muscles that did not have time to relax do not receive such energy and cannot change their state any more, being "locked". It would take even more energy to set them in motion by bending the body. That is why after death it can take a rigid posture, but it will no longer be able to move. It is worth saying that the moment of death is still a mystery. The correlation between heart function and brain death may be unclear. A split second after death, the brain can give its last signals, which lead to a small short twitch of the body.
Embalmers suture open lips. This myth was born out of horror films. Zombies crawling out of the ground cannot talk until their stitched lips are cut with a knife. In fact, we can all feel relaxed even with our mouths closed. But this is the result of the work of the muscles that keep the jaw closed. As soon as they relax, the mouth immediately opens. The sight of a dead man with his mouth open is not the most pleasant, so the embalmers have to work on it. And there are several ways to achieve the goal. The most common way is to use small, sharp needles. They are fixed between the bones of the upper and lower jaw, one on each side. Then they are connected together with invisible threads. It may sound unpleasant, but the dead person doesn't feel anything. At the dentist, we have to experience much more painful sensations. If the bone structure does not allow this solution, then the embalmer resorts to a needle and sutures. But he does not work with the lips, but on the muscle that is responsible for the closeness of the lips. And in this case, the idea is the same - the top is connected to the bottom using a knot.
Embalmers suck human blood like vampires. Blood really needs to be removed from the body in order to slow down the decomposition. But embalmers do not suck out the liquid, they push it out. The structure of our cardiovascular system, which is built on the circulation of fluid, helps in this. The specialist injects a special solution that naturally displaces the blood. However, the body contains not only blood, it stores other fluids and gases as well. Bacteria by their work can increase the volume of a corpse. Any excess fluid or gas left behind after arterial embalming is removed by suction. For this, a long tool is used, a trocar. It removes fluids and gases from organs and cavities through a single entry point in the navel. The operation resembles laparoscopy. The accumulated gases can create pressure on some interesting parts of the body. Usually, when you move your body, you can get rid of gas by using the throat or anus. In the case of a dead person, this can result in a gurgling, grinding sound, a slight groan, or a posthumous unpleasant smell.
Hair and nails continue to grow after death. Some people think that people buried in coffins overgrow hair and nails for several years. But if this were so, then every mummy found would have to surprise us with a magnificent hairdo. So what actually happens to dead bodies? At some point, the skin becomes dehydrated, because we stop drinking liquid after death. The skin wrinkles after this, which allows the appearance of a bristle effect. The embalming liquid has a good firming effect. If a person was clean-shaven before the procedure, then he may later have stubble. This is due to the fact that the strengthened skin refuses from the hair roots, and they come out in the form of protruding parts. Thus, we simply see what was previously hidden under the skin. A similar situation occurs with nails - the skin on the fingers shrinks.
The dead smells like formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is not of plant origin; this substance is actually derived from formic acid. It is akin to ant poison, and even its name comes from the word "formica" ("ant"). From biology lessons, we remember how a frog was taken out of formaldehyde before we began to dissect it. In fact, the term itself refers to a gas, so the liquid should be correctly called formalin. Some embalming fluids contain much less pungent glutaraldehyde in terms of odor. So there is not as much formalin in the embalming fluid as it seems. It does contain many other ingredients, such as dyes, surfactants, fermentation additives, and even pleasant flavors. Embalmers are ordinary people and they want to work in comfortable conditions. The liquid is usually concentrated in half liter bottles. Each must be mixed with three liters of water to create a working cocktail.
The pumped out blood is disposed of like other medical waste. It seems logical that the pumped out blood simply pours into some kind of collector. Probably some of the inhabitants of the sewer know about this better than we do. Blood is mixed with strong chemicals during the embalming procedure. So simply pouring it out may become unsafe. Funeral homes have special self-contained purification systems that prevent medical waste from entering the general network. This waste is sent to special treatment plants with a certain level of filtration. And before there were funeral homes, embalmers came to work at the house of the deceased. The specialist took with him a set of instruments, including bottles with liquids and empty ones, for subsequent filling with blood. Even in those days, this procedure was quite clean, although the specialist does not work with the insides. The blood was pumped out with hoses and sealed in bottles for later use.
Embalming is required for burial. Some people do not want to be embalmed, but they also do not want to be cremated. There are many who want to keep it natural until the very end. For them, it seems intolerable to think that a body impregnated with chemistry will be placed in the ground in a metal coffin. These people want nature to take its toll. They ask not to embalm the body, not to burn it, but simply to allow it to decompose calmly, thanks to worms. In fact, there are no state laws requiring embalming. True, in most cases, the funeral home will still require embalming for a public inspection. If the body travels long distances by plane, along with other cargo, then it will be difficult to refuse embalming. However, the container can be sealed and dry ice can be used. If the body is in a semi-decomposed state, has seriously suffered from burns, if a person is crippled beyond recognition, then embalming is simply not feasible. Specialists also avoid working with those who have died from a number of diseases, such as the Ebola virus or the Kreuzfeld-Jacob mad cow disease.
For people who are too tall, embalmers break their legs to fit in coffins. People can be of different sizes, but the coffins have the same shape and do not differ much in height. In low-grade horror films, the myth was born that dead people who are out of size are simply shortened with a saw. It sometimes seems unusual to us that a tall man during his lifetime fit into a coffin. Do embalmers really go to the cunning, breaking the bones of the legs? In life, we usually take up as much space as we need. But there's always room for someone else in a crowded elevator. True, others will have to feel uncomfortable. The coffin should not be spacious or stretch out. It only provides an opportunity to place the body. The small size of the coffin would be a nightmare for the claustrophobic. Today, standard sizes are slightly larger than they were 60 years old. For that, there must be fast food thanks. A wooden coffin is usually 195 centimeters high and about 70 centimeters wide. The metal version will be slightly higher - about 200 centimeters. Usually, the length of the coffin does not become a problem; people in old age lose several centimeters in height. In any case, you can always order a product in non-standard sizes.
Embalmers see people naked, without clothes. Some people are embarrassed that someone outside will see them without clothes. Embalming is not a very decent activity - removing blood can be shocking. However, as with other medical procedures, the genitals remain covered. Although the body itself, of course, is devoid of clothing. Part of the job also involves washing the hair on your head. Usually, people who go through medical procedures for a long time lose their initial modesty and stop being mean. The Doctor has seen all these body parts thousands of times, and he has more important things to pay attention to. The same goes for the embalmer. On his anatomical table, the dead body is clearly not the first, and not the last. There is work that needs to be done and completed on time. So the specialist simply has no time to admire the naked body. Dressing up for a final sleep is not an easy process. For the sake of things, you have to bend your back to ensure the right posture. Some dead people need shoes, while others do without them. And underwear is a personal preference of relatives.
Embalming does not affect body color. Usually the dead are depicted as white ghosts. Surprisingly, death plays with different colors. After the heart has stopped and the brain has died, there is no one to vigorously pump blood through the vessels. The banal force of gravity comes into play. Cadaveric spots appear on the body, "livor mortis" in Latin. Literally the phrase means "death of blue". If a person dies lying on his back, then his face turns pale - blood accumulates in the back of the body. If he dies face down, then it will turn red and even purple. Some time after death, the natural process of decomposition will begin. Its first sign is a green tint appearing on the body in the intestinal area. It employs bacteria that are usually involved in the digestive system. However, without a response from the body, microorganisms will begin to behave uncontrollably. Eventually, those vessels that contain blood will begin to disintegrate. The blue discoloration will be replaced by a new effect - the skin will look like marble. Purple lines will remain on it, which will show where the veins used to pass. And embalming restrains all these processes in order to give loved ones a dignified goodbye to the person at his funeral. That is why it is worth allowing such a specialist to calmly do his job. And it depends on his work how natural and decent the deceased will look at the funeral.