"Seeing for Yourself"...
(Note Bene! The following illustration is NOT a photograph!!!)
The body is opened with a Y incision.
The word autopsy means "seeing with one’s own eyes".
I’ve read the autopsy report so many times that I know some of it by heart. It’s the only one I’ve ever seen. I was 23 years old when I read it for the first time. It’s still completely overwhelming, though I can read it dispassionately now – well, at least most of the time.
"The body is opened with a Y incision".
"There is extensive hemorrhage…"
"… multiple extensive fractures…"
"… multiple ragged lacerations…"
"… small focal hemorrhages… "
"… adventitial blood…"
"… extensively lacerated and surrounded by… extensive retroperitoneal hemorrhage…"
"… torn in association with… fractured… bones…"
I learned new words – such as "retroperitoneal". Retroperitoneal is the area situated behind the peritoneum – and the peritoneum is the space between the two layers of membrane that covers the abdominal cavity and supports most of the vital organs – in effect, serving as an insulating and protective layer.
I learned that "adventitial" refers to the membrane that covers an organ or blood vessel.
The body that had been opened with the Y incision was that of my natural mother, Nancee. The [medical] cause of her death was recent and extensive internal trauma resulting in the rupture of her liver, ruptured right kidney, ruptured bladder, shattered pelvis and broken right ribs, 2 through 8… and a massive amount of blood loss.
What caused the trauma was that the driver of the motorcycle that Nancee was with that night in Santa Cruz failed to negotiate the sharp curve to the right on West Cliff Drive at the point where it becomes Pacific Ave. The motorcycle’s estimated speed was between 60-70 mph… the posted speed limit was (and it still is) 25 mph.
They skidded 21 feet before crashing through the guard-rail, tearing out 6 feet of it. The motorcycle skidded another 18 feet, then jumped the sidewalk to hurtle 21 feet over the bluff to the private road below. It hit the road once, bounced, then flew another 28 feet before it finally crashed to a stop. Nancee was thrown an additional 20 feet from that point of impact and landed in tall grassy weeds near a Texaco station, face down.
It was a little past 2 in the morning. She died within a few minutes… cold, broken and alone. The driver lay critically injured near the motorcycle – which was brand new and wasn’t even his – he’d borrowed it earlier in the evening. He died a month later, never having been able to make a coherent statement.
This is what I found in the fall of 1975 after having searched for my natural mother for 5 years. That she had died nearly 18 years earlier, in 1958, at the age of 25. It had never occurred to me, not even once, that she might be dead and I was completely unprepared for that possibility. Being rejected would have been joyous in comparison since where there is life there is hope. But Death doesn’t give you second or third chances. Death is absolute. Death is final.
It seemed obvious then to everyone I knew who wasn’t adopted, and even a few who were, that The Search for my natural mother was over. But it wasn’t. Far from it - in fact, not even close. It was just the beginning.
All rights reserved. ©Deborah Rykoff Bennett 2006