Morgue? Not so ghastly

Prof Kozlova taught us a powerful lesson, respect for our patients even in their most intolerable form.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

What you need to know:

  • Prof Kozlova never lost her glamour. Not even in the autopsy room. She would be dissecting the smelliest of bodies with a perfectly straight face despite the acrid smell.
  • She carried on with her dissection, listing her findings and explaining her conclusions. All this while, the room was unbearable. She never once flinched.

The first time I met Prof Kozlova, she walked past me on the corridors and I had to spin around and stare at her. She was regal, walked ramrod straight, with a commanding aura. She turned the drab hospital walkway into her runway and owned it like a supermodel.

You see, the good old professor  was in the sixth decade of her life but she truly redefined the phrase, “You are as old as you choose!” She wore her six-inch heels with swag, maintained her ash-blonde mane in a perfectly coiffed pixie cut and wore the mostheavenly scents every single day.

Professor believed in self-care. She worked hard, played tennis to keep fit, enjoyed good food and a good glass of wine and best of all, she loved to shop for shoes! Heels!

Yes, she had dozens of them. Every year when she took her annual leave, she flew back home to Ukraine for a month and when she came back, she had a whole new array of fabulous heels! Being a shoe-addict myself, I would not fail to notice the fancy new additions!

This stylish ageless diva is the most brilliant mind I ever met! She is a Professor in Forensic Pathology, a passionate teacher who impacted all of us in the most formative years of the profession.

Prof Kozlova was deeply committed to three important aspects of life, her husband, Prof Kozlov, her students and her work.

Her husband, who taught us general pathology, was extremely modest about his achievements. Well, that was true until it came to his wife. He made it a point to frequently remind us that though he was never able to beat her in class, he succeeded in making her his wife, and that was an achievement he held in the highest regard!

Prof Kozlova taught with passion. When she spoke in class, you would think we were all destined to be forensic pathologists. In her lilting Ukrainian accent, she broke down difficult scientific information into simple concepts that we gobbled up and built a basis for the future.

She believed that a student’s failure was a reflection on her performance as a teacher and mentor. She made us love forensic pathology!

What was incongruent was that this high fashion, stylish person spent her days in the morgue employing her rare skill on clients who were no longer glamorous.

They came in smelly, decomposed, disfigured or completely dismembered. Yet she took her time to try and piece together their final journey in an effort to unlock the puzzle of how they died. Many times, her work was the key to finding justice for her clients.

Yet despite the gruesome nature of her job, Prof Kozlova never lost her glamour. Not even in the autopsy room. She would be dissecting the smelliest of bodies with a perfectly straight face despite the acrid smell.

It never seemed to bother her. If I didn’t witness her pick up the smell of chemicals on the bodies for autopsy, I could have sworn her sense of smell was dead. She was never bothered by it. She’d change into her surgical scrubs and dust coat, don her gloves and delve into her work.

Imagine the case of Timothy*, a 27-year-old man who had gone missing from his home for four weeks before his body was discovered in a maize plantation, miles away from home. He had been exposed to the elements of the weather for all this time, partially defaced by animals, in addition to the blunt force trauma to his skull.

While many of us had to excuse ourselves for a few minutes to catch our breath, professor never broke her narration the whole time.

She carried on with her dissection, listing her findings and explaining her conclusions, both to us who were learning and to the distraught family. All this while, the room was unbearable. She never once flinched.

When she was done, she walked out of the autopsy room, discarded her smelly clothes, changed into her fancy ones, and headed home to wash it all off.

She taught us a powerful lesson, respect for our patients even in their most intolerable form! My favourite personal second lesson was that your job should never dull your glitz! Even if you are going to be raking muck, do so in your favourite red lipstick!

Dr Bosire is an obstetrician/gynaecologist

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