This week is Dying Matters Awareness Week, which aims to highlight the importance of talking about dying, death and bereavement, and staff at our hospital have been learning more via a tour of our mortuary facilities.
Katie Green, Senior Anatomical Pathology Technologist, gave the first tour on Monday morning, 14 May, explaining what happens following a death in the community or at the hospital.
Anyone who dies in the Great Yarmouth or Waveney area is likely to come into the James Paget mortuary and it’s the place where post mortems, paperwork and other procedures that are required following a death are carried out.
Post mortem examinations are carried out three days a week to determine causes of death, but the Paget team are also on call at any time of the day or night for forensic post mortems, in cases where a death is thought to be suspicious, to gather evidence for potential murder or manslaughter prosecutions.
Whether a post mortem is required or not, the individual is kept at the mortuary before being transferred to the funeral directors, with the mortuary team dealing with the paperwork to allow a death certificate to be issued, usually within 48 hours of the death.
There is space for around 120 people to be kept in the mortuary at any time and, as the area has grown, it is not unusual for this to regularly be close to capacity.
The team at the mortuary also play a part in organ donation. While major organ donation has to be carried out on the operating table, the most common and most successful form of transplant – corneal transplants – are facilitated by Katie and her colleagues.
Every day there are 16 corneal transplants in the UK, and corneas for transplant can be collected up to 24 hours after death. Even if your vision is poor your corneas can still be used and, if you are a relative of someone donating you won’t see the eyes of your loved one in the patient who receives the donation as it is just the cornea that is used.
The Bereavement Suite at the James Paget provides families with a place to get practical information in an emotionally distressing time, and somewhere procedures relating to the death of a loved one can be discussed.
If you’re thinking of becoming an organ donor in the event of your death, then talking about your wishes with your family – and particularly your next-of-kin - is crucial as they will be asked to make the decision on your behalf. Choosing to donate a loved-ones organs may not be easy but you could be saving other lives and giving another family an amazing gift.