By Amrit Prasad Poudel
Beni, Sept. 18: “When I have to cut open the dead bodies of small children, then my heart cries in pain. After all, I am also a mother. Hearing the relatives cry and scream adds to my sorrow. It is a heart-wrenching job but it’s my job, my responsibility.”
These are the words of Laxmi Kisan, an aide at the mortuary of Beni Hospital who helps in the post-mortem of bodies. “Sometimes, we get decaying bodies of those who died a long time ago. Still, I must do my duty, mustn’t I?”
After the doctor arrives to determine the cause of death, it is Laxmi’s job to dissect the body and look for all the issues that need to be mentioned in the report that will then get submitted to the doctors, police and courts.
Called ‘Laxmi Sister’ by all the medical staff, she has been working at the Beni Hospital for the past 15 years. Laxmi’s husband worked as the post-mortem helper in the hospital from 2000. But he left the job in 2005 after which Laxmi joined in the same post.
Originally from Baglung Municipality–3, Laxmi’s family now lives in the hospital, with her daughter studying in grade 12 and her son in grade 4 in schools of Beni.
When someone dies in an accident or they commit suicide, or when a death is reported and the exact cause of death cannot be ascertained, the police collect the body and bring it to Beni Hospital. The body is usually accompanied by the relatives of the deceased carrying an official letter from the police. And one person all of them asks for is ‘Laxmi Sister’.
Beni Hospital’s Medical Officer Dr. Sagar Lamichhane has nothing but praises for Laxmi. “In the last one year since I came to Beni, I have conducted 19 post-mortems and have not had to worry about issues like corpse management, organ dissection or body handling thanks to Laxmi Sister. She is fearless, responsible and very dedicated.”
“She may be a helper by post but her knowledge and skill are even better than that of doctors. She is able to conduct even the most complex dissections and organ removal procedures in a well-organised manner,” Dr. Lamichhane added.
Bel Bahadur Katuwal, chairman of Beni Hospital Management Committee, too commended Laxmi. “She is always ready to work, anytime, anywhere. Be it morning, day or night, she completes every work she is given.”
Katuwal informed that Laxmi not only took charge of dissecting the corpses but also of keeping the toilets and bathrooms clean. Despite being a contract employee, Laxmi has been in continuous service for the past 15 years. “A testament to the quality of her work is that we have never received any complaints about her,” he said.
Katuwal shared that he placed Laxmi in the staff quota after he became the hospital’s committee chairman.
For all her hard work, Laxmi receives an annual incentive allowance and is also given other allowances if and when necessary, according to Katuwal. She has also been receiving the state-mandated salary of an office helper for the past one year.
Although Laxmi Sister’s role may appear minor at first glance, the responsibility she carries is immense. It is her work that
enables the doctors to prepare accurate reports, police to conduct detailed investigations, public attorneys to prepare proper prosecution cases and courts to administer justice.
Myagdi District Hospital upgraded itself from 15 beds to 50 beds, changed its name to Beni Hospital, got newer well-equipped buildings, but for the past one and a half decades, the name and value of Laxmi Sister has remained in focus.
Laxmi shared her experience, “There are more doctors and employees now. I also get to help in up to 130-135 post-mortems a year for which I receive Rs. 200 excluding taxes per body.”
The most amazing thing is that Laxmi received no formal training in dissecting bodies. She learnt it all from the doctors at the hospital. “It was hard at first but I picked it up by following the instructions of the doctors.”