“Who Wants to go on a Coroner Tour?!”

I don’t know how you would respond to this question, but I jumped at the opportunity.

Replace-Fear-with-CuriosityBecky, our Director of Community Development, set up this tour and although she was met with some resistance, she filled up the spots with community professionals and had just enough space for me to tag along with my dad, Jeff Turner, one of the O’Connor owners.

Now I know most kids don’t grow up hearing about the Coroner’s office, but I did. My dad was always so impressed with the level of professionalism, service & efficiency he received from the Orange County office – they made his job easier, and in this profession, that’s highly valued. So after hearing about the Coroner for so long, I was very interested to see it for myself. I’ve grown up around mortuaries, took an anatomy class in high school, I’ve dissected animals & seen cadavers; I felt confident that the Coroner wasn’t going to freak me out any more than any of those experiences.

Jeff, Lesley & Becky

Jeff, Lesley & Becky

We gathered in a room and were greeted warmly by Lesley, a long-time employee there whose bubbly personality, smile and zeal for what she did was a charming and sweet surprise. She started by telling us about how the original Coroner building had been leveled in 2001 and re-opened in 2004 with state-of-the art technology, design and innovation. The building is beautiful, modern and bright, taking away from the grimness of its purpose.

We visited one of the private autopsy rooms that didn’t quite resemble the CSI show sets, or the dark, dank ones Scully used in X-Files. They were bright, white rooms, clean, organized and spacious.

Then Lesley took us upstairs to the training center where courses are given to people keeping up licenses, and other specialties. She said that we were going to see a “Training Scene” where, for example, applicants for the Deputy Coroner job, would be asked to assess the situation and give their opinion on the cause and manner of death. “But don’t worry,” Lesley said, “these are mannequins that you’ll see, not real bodies . . .”

Well, we entered the room and my father, a man who worked as an embalmer for over 15 years, jaw-dropped looked at me and said, “Wait, is this real?” – the scene had a large, 250-280 pound man lying across his couch, and who, judging by the swelling and discoloration, had been dead for over 3 days. “At least we don’t have the smell,” my dad whispered. I won’t give details here, but it was a sight I don’t think I will ever forget.

(To see one of the mannequins they have, click here – please note, they are a bit graphic)

We went on to see the main autopsy room where all autopsies are performed in the morning between 8am-1pm. Orange County (click here for stats) had 18,915 deaths in 2012, 7,106 of which were investigated by the Coroner’s office. Lesley was proud to inform us that of all those deaths, only 63 of them were homicides (vs. 960 in LA County in 2009, their most recent statistics), “We live in a VERY safe county” she said.

Sharing Hearts.

Sharing Hearts.

During the tour, we came across a beautiful mural commemorating the wonderful work of One Legacy, an organization specializing in organ donation that works with the coroner and families through the donation process. The photo above depicts a real scenario where the teacher (seated) received the heart of her young student’s mother. The little girl who lost her mother is listening to her mother’s transplanted heart beat.

This tour was an absolutely incredible experience that demystified, fascinated, and assured me of the good in people. The staff we met were passionate about helping their community, giving justice to the victims that come into their doors, and closure to the families who walk out of them.

I feel like I met a hero in Lesley, a kind person doing an difficult job with compassion, love, and pride.

\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\

So, will you be joining us for the next tour of the Coroner’s office?? : )

 

Maybe you’re interested but you’d rather start off in baby-steps with a tour of our mortuary first, just let Becky or myself know. We’d love to have you!

Molly Keating

About Molly Keating

Hi, I’m Molly and I write for the blog here at O’Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who’s deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try.
Work at O’Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.
I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.

This entry was posted in Community, News and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • April Yocky

    Great job Molly! I really enjoyed your blog. It was very interesting and informative. I particularly liked the info on our local Orange County homicide stats. Always nice to hear! I never realized a tour could be taken at a Coroner facility and would love to go sometime.

    • April,
      Thank you so much for reading! The tour of the facility is actually a fairly new feature of the Coroner operations, I think we were only the 2nd tour they put through. It’s a monthly thing they are doing and it’s free of charge. Since talking to my family about my experience almost all of them have said they want to go. Maybe we have a family of the mortuary tour?? It would be so great to have you along! Thanks again for reading & I’ll keep you in mind if we put something like that together!

  • Patricia Kolstad

    Neil and I toured the OC Coroner’s office when it re-opened. It was unbelievably realistic, and incredibly “state of the art”. I can remember watching the cable program “North Mission Road” about the Los Angeles Coroner’s office (and worked with the extensively during my days in funeral service in Long Beach) and to describe the two would be like comparing apples to oranges. The progressive work of the Orange County Sheriff’s office and the State of California to design and create the California Coroner Training Center was a landmark decision that raised the bar and trained thousands of death investigators across the nation. We are the privileged few who are blessed to work with such an outstanding Orange County organization. Bravo!

    • Beautifully said Pat! It is a privilege we don’t really understand or know the full blessing of. Thanks for the comment!!

  • Anne

    Hi Molly, Wow! Exciting! I would love to see it some time. Maybe the same time April gets to go. We do work hand in hand with these agencies closely and it is great to put a face with the name Leslie who I spoke with in the past when I worked in the front here in past years. You made me feel like I was there. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Anne! The general consensus was that the staff should all see that place. To have such an in-depth knowledge of how that side of this works is really valuable and I’m certain that families would take comfort in our knowledge and relationship with the Coroner. You’ll be on the tour list!

  • Jeff Turner

    Molly, thank you for writing about this event with Lesley Trejo at the Orange County Coroner’s office. I know that I have joked over the years that should I die unexpectedly in another County, you should drive me into Orange County and tell them I died there! But seriously. Do that. There is no finer run Coroner’s office in our region than ours. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Coroner’s Division have always been the very best to work with. It was rewarding for me to have you see what I have known for 28 years about the Orange County Coroner’s operation and staff.

    Thank you to our Sheriff’s Department and everyone at the Orange County Coroner for all that you do for our community.

    • So great to finally see it & have you there! I echo your sentiments completely, Thank you so much OCSD & Lesley especially – you guys are amazing!

  • Neil O’Connor

    HI Molly – Great Blog! I had the pleasure of touring the OC Coroners office when they remodeled it years ago. I was amazed at the level of care & compassion of the OC Coroners office team. The facilities are truly state of the art, it was very impressive. This tour is a must for our entire community.

    • Neil,
      I couldn’t agree more! I was so surprised at the reactions I got from my family members when I told them about the tour. People who previously would have probably turn down the opportunity got excited, and VERY interested in going. I think having me go before them and bringing back the positive message I did really helped them feel like they could go to something like this. We’ve gotta keep spreading the word!

  • Becky Finch Lomaka

    Great blog Molly! It was such a great tour and to be able to share the experience with our wonderful community partners was fantastic!

    • Thank you Becky! Yes, you put together a great event with the perfect audience. I know they were all so grateful to have the opportunity! Thank you so much for letting me be a part!

  • Carrie Bayer

    Molly, thank you for sharing this! I went on a tour of the OC Coroner’s office a few years back & it was amazing! I loved every bit of the facility & found it fascinating. While going up the stairs, I ripped my pants & had to walk the rest of the tour sheilding my rear end from everyone! But still, I had a great time there. Thank you! Carrie

    • Haha! That is hilarious Carrie! I’m glad you’ve been able to tour the place, I’m sure you appreciated it much more deeply than I. Thanks for reading!!

  • GREG FORSTER

    Hi Molly,

    Well, you did it again. You opened up for us a window into a new area of services provided for our Orange County population. This is one government office that I am sure usually would be at the bottom of most people’s lists of places to tour, right there with the IRS and DMV.
    But you have shown us a serendipity. The Coroner’s office is not a “depressing dark pit”. It has risen to be a place that is personal, vital, open and filled with hope for the living. This is not a place of death alone, it is a place where the living can find the means to survive. How satisfying for the Coroner staff to be a part in the organ donation process, in the ultimate gift of life for others.
    How important is this to them? The photo of the mural that you included says it all and I thank you for sharing this moment with me.

    Greg

    • Greg, you are so kind! I’m so glad you enjoyed this blog and that the positive message I received overwhelmingly on that tour is shared by you. Thank you so much for reading & sharing in my appreciation of the important work they do there.

  • Jenn

    I can’t wait until the next tour, I was so sorry to miss it this time around. Sounds very interesting and helpful for those of us in the industry.

  • Christopher Iverson

    Molly,

    Does the tour of the OC Coroner’s facility conclude with a trip to Cold Stone for ice cream??? Lots of great information and great people at the Coroner’s office.

  • Donna Beatie

    I would love to go on a tour of the coroner’s officer! Your blog helped me to visualize the tour and gain a new appreciation for another part of the “team” who deal with the end of life. Thanks Molly

  • Tia

    I’ve been wanting to go on one of these tours for quite some time. I have even left messages with the OC Coroner’s Office inquiring about the next tour. How did you get information on it?

    • Hello Tia! We actually have an employee of the Coroner’s office also working with us here at O’Connor in a part-time capacity. When I saw your comment, I asked her and she sent me this great information, I hope you find it helpful.

      “The OC Coroner conducts monthly tours on the third Wednesday of the month (except for holidays), from 2-4 pm. Interested individuals can either email Lynette Weiss at lweiss@ocsd.org or go directly to the OCSD website, under Coroner Division (in the Divisions tab), and there’s a link to our general mailbox. We need the name(s) of the attendee(s), number in party, and contact information.”

      Tia, please let me know if you have other questions that come up, I would love to be of assistance. You can reach me directly by email at mkeating@oconnormortuary.com