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Within the bounds of our topic, I must share the words of a great mentor who often said-
“ An embalmers ability is not well demonstrated or established with cases with little difficulty- it can be quantifiably measured by the progress made in times of trial and failure. ”
When or how might an embalmer make the determination to go waterless? The first step would be to judge not simply the case at hand, but also yourself. To be true and honest with the skills you possess is necessary to understand the limitations of your own capabilities. Second, how compromised is the case you are called to serve? A very clear indicator for me, as an embalmer, is the signs of marbling. Marbling is the apparent darkened discoloration of the superficial venous system. With this condition, one can reasonably expect the venous system in its decomposed state to have changed. Expect the expected- weaker vessel strength and decreased ability, or complete loss of the ability, to return blood or fluid (drainage).
Signs of decomposition should not be the only qualifier. For our purposes, we might also add cases of edema or restoration-that require rapid firmness. If we compare our most straightforward embalming cases with our more difficult cases, what can we learn? Would we agree that most straightforward cases required a lower chemical concentration and had significantly greater distribution to vessels as compared to the difficult cases. Having developed a case intuition or case analysis skill, the embalmer is provided the opportunity to adjust their method. Based upon the results presented- is it not reasonable to believe there might be a correlation between distribution and chemical concentration? If we accept these results and are honest with our limitations, we can grow. For as Jake Huard said, “To achieve we must believe”.If we continue to develop this belief, we might suggest that an increased chemical concentration can do well to compensate for poor distribution. When employed properly, results will show that this is true. Mastery of this skill requires a broad knowledge of the various difficult cases.
Edema is known to challenge even skilled embalmers. It is well known by expert embalmers, to adjust their fluid concentration to account for the added water. By estimating the volume of retained fluid- embalmers deduct this value from the water added to their fluid mixture. While the higher concentration of fluid enters the tissue- chemical concentration decreases. Though the concept is fairly straightforward, this is truly an art as much as a science.
In closing, trauma may be one of the greatest challenges an embalmer can face. Repairing tissue without first preservation could fail even the most skilled restorative artists. By experiencing the challenge of restoring poorly preserved tissue, restorative artists can learn to advantage their work with greater preservation.