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My Other Life: Kahne Witham, autopsy technician and 911 dispatcher

by Judy Lessin | February 1, 2010

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Even though she gave up nursing to become a nail tech, Kahne Witham still makes good use of her medical background — a year ago she went to work for Washington State’s Cowlitz County as an on-call 911 medical/fire/police dispatcher and as an autopsy technician. “I’m an adrenaline junkie, so the 911 and autopsy duties fulfill my adrenaline addiction, give me a challenge, and keep me learning,” says Witham, the owner of That Nail Chic Salon in Longview, Wash., and a national educator for Light Elegance.

As an autopsy technician, she arrives at the coroner’s office an hour prior to the procedure to prepare. She begins by reviewing the case and gathers any necessary evidence for the medical examiner to review. Next, she sets up the protective gear (like masks and gowns) and surgical instruments. “Instruments include anything from large gardening shears to small scalpels and syringes for drawing blood,” she says.

“During the autopsy itself, the technicians physically hold aside any body parts necessary for the doctor to get to a specific area. We keep the area he or she is working on as clean as possible and keep the needed tools within reach,” says Witham. “Typically a simple autopsy takes from one to four hours.” She sews the body back up once the autopsy is complete and sterilizes the exam room and surgical instruments.

“As a 911 dispatcher we go through extensive training that lasts anywhere from six months to a year,” she says. “We answer a 10-line 911 system for the entire county as well as six non-emergency police lines. At the same time we dispatch the police officers and medical and fire personnel.

“Both of these careers allow me to make the schedule I need for my family. I work when I want to and fulfill all my passions.”

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