Sunday, March 16, 2014

She's got legs...

Oh legs. I don't know anyone that likes legs. On my best day, with a not particularly bad leg, I don't mind them. On the wrong day, I dread seeing one come in the door.

Why? Well, they are unwieldy and just won't stay where they're put. Sometimes all the vascular margins aren't clipped so if you grab it blood shoots out the resection margin because of the pressure you've applied. And they're fresh. They're fresh and bloody. They are the single largest exposure I have to unfixed, biohazard-y tissue (which I'm not particularly concerned about, but at the same time puddles of blood aren't exactly my favorite).

And the smells. Oh the smells! Gangrene is a popular reason to have your leg amputated, plus non-healing wounds, ischemia. These are not nice legs, these are legs that have allowed toes to rot off and nails to get hoof-like. Legs with popliteal arteries that are thrombosed and wide enough to stick three fingers in. Sloughing skin and muscle turned gray, green, and purple with rot.

The legs get wrapped up, in layers and layers. The more layers, the worse it smells generally, more layers to try to contain the stench. The last layer is the worst, it is a sort of adhesive plastic that sticks to the skin. Sometimes it comes off easily, and sometimes removing it brings part of the foot with it. 

At the end, it all gets re-wrapped, put back into a biohazard bag, thrown into a rigid biohazard box, and then put into the morgue fridge. The temperature keeps it from rotting too much more, but you still hope that you never have to go back to it. Time is not kind to detached legs.


  1. Back some time ago, a cow-orker of mine who was massively overweight and whose attitude toward food was "if it won't go in the microwave, I don't eat it" came back from a business trip and announced that he was going into the hospital to have his leg removed.

    A short time later, I was with him when he was talking with a third party and mentioned that he "lost his leg".  I said, "no you didn't, you know exactly where it is—it's in the pathlogy lab at $HOSPITAL."  He never did return to work.

    A few months after that, he surprised me by showing up at my usual grocery store.  He asked me sort of sneeringly if I was still eating "rabbit food".  I should have asked if he was ready to sacrifice the other leg yet, or if his head was already too far gone to make a difference.