Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Embalming Process Part 1

In case you're just joining us, my rat Chuck passed away on Monday. I decided to mummify him in the Ancient Egyptian tradition instead of burying him. I preformed the embalming process this morning, which I will describe in detail over the next few days, but first a little warning...


Personally, I didn't find the process overly gross, but I've been an RN for 23 years and I'm currently the wound care specialist at my facility. In other words, I deal with a lot of gross on a daily basis, so I have no idea how a normal person would view this.

Just a couple of things before we get started. Last month I saw the King Tut exhibit at the new, post-apocalyptic prison-like De Young Museum in San Francisco. I also saw it when I was a kid and have been in love with Ancient Egypt ever since; my recent visit was definitely an inspiration for this project. Also, I forgot to mention in my previous post that I got the 12 pounds of sodium carbonate (natron salt) at a local pool supply store. OK, now to business.

I'll admit that even with all my clinical experience I was a bit apprehensive beforehand. Fortunately, I got over that quickly once I got started. Here's a picture of Chuck waiting patiently for his date with destiny.

The Ancient Egyptians felt that the brain was pretty much useless, so it was removed and discarded. Since I thought that getting out the brain would be hardest I started with that. I have no idea how the Egyptians removed the brains of their animal mummies, but with humans they stuck a hook up the nose, scrambled the brains until they liquefied, then they drained them out of the nose.

Since Chuck's snout was a lot smaller and longer than a human's I decided to go through the back of the head and into the cranium. Here's the first incision. I have to say that having a scalpel is a must. Another gal on on the web used an X-acto knife and had a lot of trouble even cutting through the first layer of skin, let alone the underlying tissue. The scalpel went right though it.

At this point I knew I had to punch through the back of the cranium, but I wasn't looking forward to the inevitable cracking sound. I used my suture scissors to drive a whole into the cranium and it did crack, but I got over it. I then scrambled the brain tissue (which I could not see) with the scissors and tried to drain them out. Of course, nothing came out so I went to plan B.

Since rats get sick a fair amount, I had tons of little 1 cc syringes laying around, so yes, I stuck a syringe inside his cranium and sucked his brains out. Disgusting, but effective.

Here's a clearer shot of the hole in the back of his head:

I think that's it for tonight, I'll take this up tomorrow evening when I get to the guts. I don't know about you, but I can hardly wait. Thanks to all who are following my blog and thanks to Chuck. He was a trooper throughout.

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