It actually took several more days before he was ready to ship.

The second day, I came back to check on the presence of tissue gas. The places where I made the incisions had no gas building up, but there was gas in some of the surrounding tissues. I made several more incisions in his thighs, chest and back.

I also re-injected his arms with a fluid that controls edema, to see if there was any difference in his condition the next day and if I should re-inject his whole body. I did not notice a difference; his arms came out very well and probably did not need extra treatment. I tried this on his legs and could not locate arteries in the embalmed tissue. I hypodermically injected the remaining solution into his legs and flanks, and coated his face with formaldehyde gel, wrapped him and returned him to the cooler.

The third day, his stomach had bloated again but no liquids came out. I made a second puncture and that relieved the remaining buildup. I closed every incision and injected another bottle of cavity fluid into his abdomen, and turned him face-down again to monitor any fluid loss. Overnight, no fluids leaked from his stomach, so I turned him face-up and closed the puncture.

No more skin came off the body as I worked, and nothing leaked from the incision sites. Fluids continued to seep through his skin, since he had lost so much of it. He was a mix of colors, green and gray and pink. Making out his race or age would have been impossible.

I dressed him today, after wrapping him in layers of plastic and tape and coating his body with baking soda. When I saw the clothing brought by the family, I understood just how much he had swollen up after death. He was the size of an average adult, perhaps 160 lbs. His clothing was child-sized. It would not fit him. It would not have fit me, and I’m 115 lbs. He had been a very small guy.

Even after cutting the shirts up the back and slitting the waist and cuffs of the pants, nothing fit or looked right. Since this is a non-viewable body and their (hopefully closed casket) service will be after shipping, I did not contact the family for alternate clothing, which I normally do. I put the clean lock of his hair into a plastic bag and left a note reading “For the parents.”

Decomposition can only be arrested, not reversed. When a body no longer looks human, no longer has distinguishable facial features, there is nothing that can be done except for making sure it doesn’t get worse, and I was able to do at least that.

It was sort of hard to see him go. He was my case. I put time and effort into him. It’s almost like a family member has left. But he just went home.