Monday, 9 June 2014

A history of the pathology lab at Southend Hospital (Part One)

In the sight of the board of trustees Dr Harry Stemmle prepares to 
shoot a platelet off the head of his 9 year old colleague – Dr 
Richard Mast.
A history of the pathology lab at Southend hospital

The current incarnation of the lab was established by Royal appointment in 1517 making it, to this day, one of the newest pathology departments in the United Kingdom. It was initially used by King Henry VIII to test the blood of his subjects for signs of treachery.

In this modern era it is unthinkable – repugnant even - that any provincial hospital would carry out investigations to objectively gauge the treacherous disposition of a patient. Samples requiring this test are instead dispatched by courier to a special laboratory in London where they are analysed by trained Beefeaters who have taken a blood oath to protect the Monarch. 
The department is haunted by the ghost of an older pathology lab dating from Roman times. At the stroke of midnight the Roman lab briefly superimposes itself over its successor, filling the space with the sights and sounds of marching centurions, gladiatorial games, and the voices of Cicero and Julius Caesar.

The Romans put their analysers in different places so it's very easy to get confused,” says Edna Pathologist, whose family has worked in the lab for over 400 years. “That's why we generally take a break around the witching hour, although sometimes we do allow school parties who are studying Roman history to come in and talk to some of the ghosts."

An attempt to exorcise the Roman lab in 2011 led to it re materialising in the front room of a bungalow opposite the hospital. The exorcism paperwork has since been revoked by the council and the lab has returned to its previous location. 

The wainscotting in the biochemistry lab was added by the estate of Sir Robert Morgan in 1997, this being stipulated in his last will and testament, with appropriate funding for the project being made available by his executors. Although to a layman the wooden panelling appears to be aged mahogany, it is, in fact, sticky-backed plastic with a faux wooden veneer. Closer inspection will reveal sections where the strips have been laid unevenly resulting in wrinkling or a mismatch in the pattern.


A herd of roe deer roam the microbiology lab. These timid animals are rarely sighted and, for the most part, will confine themselves to the depopulated area near to where the cupboards are.

A hospital gamekeeper culls sick and elderly animals. In the future there are plans to re-introduce wolves to the area as a natural method of population control.

Every November 1st the hospital makes a

symbolic gift of an adult deer to the Chief Executive who ceremonially pardons the animal and releases it into the car park, near the Carlingford


Southend is the only hospital in the UK with a trauma centre dedicated to the treatment of antler injuries.

In 1771, consultant haematologist - Dr Harry Stemmle – became the first person to unsuccessfully shoot a single platelet off the head of a fellow consultant, using a bow and arrow.

The Anti-Coag Department is located within a small pocket parallel universe where blue objects appear slightly bluer than in our own world. To compensate for this pan-dimensional quirk in the colour palette, staff wear special contact lenses.


(Right click on pic and 'view image' to enlarge text)

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