Last weekend I was lucky enough to get tickets to a lecture on pathology and death by Carla Valentine. The whole event was a mixture of Belfast Science Week and part of the tour for Carla’s new book Past Mortems. I was rather lucky to get a ticket because the whole thing sold out so quickly that they had to add on a second lecture to meet the demand.
And before you ask, yes, this is what we did for Valentine’s weekend. Our Valentines plans consisted of The Circus of Horrors and a lecture on death. #CoupleGoals I know.
Who is Carla Valentine?
A qualified Anatomical Pathology Technologist (aka Mortuary Technician) with a diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology, Carla Valentine spends her days up the elbows in dead bodies.
Throughout her 8 year career she has carried out medical and forensic autopsies, excavated plague and war graves and has even acted as a consultant for television and film. Most notably The Autopsy of Jane Doe which is now on Netflix.
The Lecture and Meeting Carla Valentine
As someone who has worked in the death field myself I was pretty excited to attend this lecture. Even though I only did it myself for a very short period of time everyone who has worked in a funeral home, morgue etc always has brilliant stories to tell. Carla was no exception.
The lecture was an hour long, during which she gave us a quick run down of her career,s show us lots of graphic material to teach us about the various states of decay and shared many of her stories from her life among the dead. It was brilliant and it really did the trick of getting me hyped up for her book. So at the end I stuck around to talk to Carla, buy a copy of her book and get it signed. She was lovely and had a good laugh at my own story about how I accidentally ended up covered in human kidney juices.
A little fact I picked up during the lecture: They stuff your head with cotton wool after they autopsy you because they cant put your brain back in.
The book is currently sitting on my to read pile and I cant wait to get stuck into it. It has been a while since I read a non fiction book.
“A day in the life of Carla Valentine – curator, pathology technician and ‘death professional’ – is not your average day. She spent ten years training and working as an Anatomical Pathology Technologist: where the mortuary slab was her desk, and that day’s corpses her task list.Past Mortems tells Carla’s stories of those years, as well as investigating the body alongside our attitudes towards death – shedding light on what the living can learn from dead and the toll the work can take on the living souls who carry it out. Fascinating and insightful, Past Mortems reveals the truth about what happens when the mortuary doors swing shut or the lid of the coffin closes . . . “