The tale of the dead man’s foot
By Brian Stanley firstname.lastname@example.org June 23, 2012 11:46PM
Updated: July 25, 2012 6:37AM
If you’re sitting down to Sunday breakfast with your Herald-News or just finished doing so, this is the week to skip around to a few other things before you get to Stanley.
Obviously, I want you to read my column, but trust me, a crossword and the comics will help the digestion more than the tale of the dead man’s foot.
On May 14, a 42-year-old man was found dead in his Monee home.
Ken’s death appeared to be the result of health problems, including diabetes, which had required the amputation of his left foot five years ago.
My own health has, fortunately, been pretty good, but in the few hospital visits I’ve had over the years, the staff has never asked if I wanted to get back the skin from the stitches. Though if I were facing amputation, I would probably want to know how they dispose of an appendage.
I don’t know if they have to offer or he had to ask, but Ken walked into the hospital with two feet and he left with the same number. Probably in a wheelchair or getting used to his new prosthetic.
Perhaps in an effort to dissuade taking the body part, the hospital told him he’d need to bring his own cooler. The plans he made are protected by HIPAA laws, but his first stop after being discharged may have been the liquor store. Ken decided to keep his foot in a jar of vodka for the rest of his life.
After paramedics were unable to revive Ken, a sheriff’s deputy and deputy coroner were called to the scene. Reports state the foot was sitting on the dining room table and the rest of Ken was near the entertainment center in the living room where he was pronounced dead at 6:25 p.m.
After conducting their investigation and finding a doctor to sign the death certificate, they prepared to release all of the remains to a funeral home.
“(The man who called 911) requested to keep his brother’s foot that was noted inside the jar,” the deputy coroner said. “(He) goes on to say that the decedent’s foot is submerged in vodka and that the decedent informed his family members to take a shot of vodka from the jar that contained the foot when he passed away.”
The deputy contacted Will County Coroner Patrick K. O’Neil to see if the foot could be kept at the house. O’Neil said the foot would go to the funeral home for the time being and he would consult with the state’s attorney’s office on their right to claim the left.
While not in any official report, sources told me as investigators became aware of Ken’s wishes, they reminded the family drinking from that container couldn’t be considered sanitary.
They apparently realized this over the next two days and decided a legal opinion would not be necessary. Ken’s foot was cremated along with the rest of his body. After soaking in alcohol for five years, I imagine it went up pretty quickly.
From a media standpoint, you lose a substantial amount of privacy when you stop breathing, but I still had mixed feelings about publicizing the “unusual findings” at the death site. But when I asked for reports under the Freedom of Information Act, the coroner’s office contacted Ken’s brother.
While he wasn’t interested in talking to the press, he said the story was something “that his brother probably would welcome.”
“He would show the amputated foot to everyone that he could,” Ken’s brother told a deputy coroner. “Kenneth would even use it at Halloween (and say) how he wanted everyone to take a drink out the container that held his amputated foot.”
So at your next opportunity, drink a quick toast to Ken for having a great sense of humor. Even with one foot in the grave.