“Life” and Death

Episodes of Tennessee Life on East Tennessee PBS normally include three segments. The August episode, which aired on Sunday afternoon, had only two segments in order to devote more time to interview subjects Johnny Majors and Dr. Bill Bass.  Host Vickie Lawson interviewed Coach Majors and I interviewed Dr. Bass.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be a guest correspondent on Vickie’s show. I’ve been volunteering on pledge drives at East Tennessee PBS for three years and hoping for the chance to do more. I met producer and correspondent Stephanie Aldrich at the premiere party for the first episode in April. I’m sure I must have dropped a few hints about wanting to be on the show.

Dr. Bass and his associate Susan Seals made the arrangements to fit us into his busy schedule. Dr. Dawnie Steadman found a time that we could shoot footage inside the William M. Bass Forensic Anthropology Building without disrupting a research project or active case.

Dr. Bass and I were able to look at the skeletal remains of a person who recently decomposed at the Body Farm. He could tell that she was an elderly woman with advanced osteoporosis. When he handed me a piece of her pelvic bone, I expected it to feel similar to other bones I’ve held when assisting Dr. Bass at his “Dinner with the Bone Doctor” lectures. Instead, her pelvis was as light as Styrofoam. She had a hip replacement and a bad fracture that must have happened at the time of death. There was no healing on the fracture.

The skull and pelvis can both be used to determine whether the deceased was male or female. Dr. Bass pointed to the supraorbital ridge on the woman’s skull and then said he could see my much-more-pronounced supraorbital ridge, even through the skin on my forehead.

According to a Facebook post, the East Tennessee PBS staff hopes to post the episode online later this week. I can hardly wait for my family and friends up north and out west to be able to watch it.

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