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 a encounter I didn't want today

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Number of posts : 145
Localisation : British Columbia
Registration date : 2008-01-24

PostSubject: a encounter I didn't want today   Wed Jan 07, 2009 1:25 am

During the course of my work, I , from time to time, have to visit the morgue. Here in BC the coroner has several morgues where bodies are taken too for examination. They are located in the larger hospitals such as the one I was in today at Vancouver General Hospital. The coroner investigates any and all un-natural deaths that occur regardless of where the event takes place. Often I am struck by the number of street people, the homeless that can die in a city the size of Vancouver. Most are from drug overdose, with some from criminal activites and even natural causes. All bodies brought in for examination are treated the same and go through the same procedures.
First they are photographed and a list of their belongings made. The body is weighed and measured and disrobed. It is then looked over by a pathologist for signs of trauma, crime and identification. No tag is attached to a toe, instead a hospital style bracelet is attached to an ankle with the person's name and ID number on it. From here they go into storage until realeased or subject to an autopsy, prior to release to a funeral home.
I have gotten used to entering and encountereing bodies in different stages of decompostion, dress and condition. Police are frequently there as well taking down information into their case books. I know the attendants and the dinar and it is not unkown for us to talk about some of the cases coming through their premises.
Today I entered and was met with a shock as I reconized the body on the examination table before me. Although air tubes and IV hook-ups were still attached, and his clothes had been cut open for medical aid that had failed, I looked at the face of David, a young first nations man that I had met on the morning of Christmas eve when I did my last handout. I asked the attendant if his name was "David" and she answered yes. She could see the shock in my face and I explained that in helping the poor I had encountered him recently.
On Christmas eve during the mission, Lady Catacomb took a picture of me crossing Commercial Drive in the snow. I was on my way to meet David for the first time. I was told that it was my "difinative picture". It certanly is.
David was 27 years old and came from just north of here in Squamish, a town close to Whistler and located on the Squamish Nation Indian Reserve. His arms showed scars from years of addiction and fights. His body was undernourished and matted with dirt from living on the street. I was told his cause of death was a drug overdose. His "friends" that he was sleeping with in a doorway had noticed he stopped brathing and flagged down a cop. The ambulance responed but it was too late for David.
His suffering is over now. He is at peace. His body was taken back to his home for burial by his family. There was no need for a full autopsy as a tox screen of his blood showed a lethal amount of heroin and alcohol.
I met him only briefly asking his name and how he was doing. He was surprised by cheerfull as I handed him a bundle with blanket, plastic sheet and some peanut butter and jam along with new socks. He shook my hand and I said I had to go but would see him again. My last vgiew of him was of him earglery going through his bundle, a smile on his tanned and scarred face.
When we do this thing we do, this helping others we never know who we may encounter or how. We know little of the results of our contact and hope we make a difference in the lives we touch. I can only hope that David thought kind of the strange man in the costume who gave him things he could use. I hope he thought he had a friend out there.
As I was leaving I glanced down at the small plastic bag that held his few pocket processions. A broken watch, A empty wallet. A old bus pass. And the small slip of paper with my name on it I include in the bundles. On the back is printed one word. Friend.
The fate of this young man has touched me deeply and driven home how important it can be for us to do this. I could'nt prevent the death of this man, but I can try to prevent others.
If nothing else I brought a smile to his face for a brief instant.
I will have to make do with that.
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