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What it’s like to be a 34-year-old mother and a forensic trauma cleaner

When the vast majority of people leave the house for work, they begin the commute to an office, a government building, a restaurant or a shop floor.

But for Brea Marshall, a 34-year-old woman from Queensland’s Gold Coast, her workplace is a very different affair, usually consisting of a crime scene and more often than not, at least one death.

Ms Marshall is a forensic trauma cleaner who is one of the first on the ground after a fatality, tasked with assessing damage, dealing with heartbroken loved ones and literally cleaning up after catastrophes.

Speaking to FEMAIL, the mother-of-two revealed how she turned a family business into a hugely successful service provider, as well as the most difficult aspect of her job and what these experiences have taught her about life.

Ms Marshall (pictured with her children) is a forensic trauma cleaner who is one of the first on the ground after a fatality, tasked with assessing damage, dealing with heartbroken loved ones and literally cleaning up after catastrophes

The mother-of-two revealed how she turned a family business into a hugely successful service provider, as well as the most difficult aspect of her job and what these experiences have taught her about life

The mother-of-two revealed how she turned a family business into a hugely successful service provider, as well as the most difficult aspect of her job and what these experiences have taught her about life

When her father suffered a stroke, Ms Marshall left her job in recruitment to take  over the day-to-day running of his carpet cleaning and restoration business.

‘It was meant to be temporary, but I quickly discovered no two days were the same and I thrived on this variety.’

Soon after taking the helm, Ms Marshall got a call requesting her services to clean up at the scene of a fatality and she identified a niche.

‘I realised there was a gap in the market for this type of work – no one was doing it professionally in the Gold Coast region.’

Following her gut instinct, Ms Marshall and her staff undertook a nationally certified training course for bio-hazard cleaning which included crime scenes, trauma and death scenes, suicide, blood and bodily fluid clean-up.

The business soon became the preferred service provider for major organisations like Queensland Rail and the regional Police Force.

Ms Marshall and her staff undertook a nationally certified training course for bio-hazard cleaning which included crime scenes, trauma and death scenes, suicide, blood and bodily fluid clean-up

Ms Marshall and her staff undertook a nationally certified training course for bio-hazard cleaning which included crime scenes, trauma and death scenes, suicide, blood and bodily fluid clean-up

Describing her love and commitment to her work, Ms Marshall said she enjoys walking into work without knowing what the day will look like. 

‘You never know how big or small a job is going to be, nor the severity of emotion for the people involved,’ she said.

Handling incredibly delicate situations which often involves death, Ms Marshall deals with friends, family members, neighbours and third parties such as landlords during moments of intense stress and heightened anxieties.

‘The job could be a simple clean up with just a little blood, or an unattended death that has been decomposing for over a week in humid weather.’

'You never know how big or small a job is going to be, nor the severity of emotion for the people involved' - Ms Marshall

‘You never know how big or small a job is going to be, nor the severity of emotion for the people involved’ – Ms Marshall

Sharing the memory of her most difficult call out, Ms Marshall remembered going to the studio apartment of an elderly person who passed away in the middle of summer.

‘By the time the body was found, it had been over four weeks during the hottest season on record.

‘Neighbours were complaining of the smell and eventually someone had to kick the door down.

‘I have never in all my life smelled anything like it; most people don’t realise what happens to your body when you die.’ 

Ms Marshall and her team had to gut the entire property, a harrowing process which took more than two weeks.  

‘The job affected all our staff emotionally, and it prompted me to implement strict protocol for how we handle the aftermath of such a call out in a sensitive manner for everyone involved.’

Ms Marshall admitted that balancing her serious and often psychologically stressful career with motherhood can be 'pretty tricky' (pictured with her husband)

Ms Marshall admitted that balancing her serious and often psychologically stressful career with motherhood can be ‘pretty tricky’ (pictured with her husband)

Ms Marshall admitted that balancing her serious and often psychologically stressful career with motherhood can be ‘pretty tricky’.

‘This type of work is not 9-5, you can get a call at any time.

‘I’ve been on school pick up with the kids screaming in the back seat and got a call from a distressed family member about a suicide. 

‘That’s the hard part,’ she said.

Ms Marshall said her sometimes distressing job has made her 'really believe that death is just a fact of life'

Ms Marshall said her sometimes distressing job has made her ‘really believe that death is just a fact of life’

In Ms Marshall’s experience, suicide is the most common cause of death for the scenes she works on.

‘There’s a certain anonymity to it – unfortunately, people check into hotels with the intention to commit suicide. 

‘It’s a very public and extremely traumatic event for anyone in the surrounding area.’

Asked about what impact being a forensic cleaner has had on her perspective of living, Ms Marshall offered a frank revelation.

‘It’s made me really believe that death is just a fact of life.

‘[And] it does make me hug my children tighter,’ she told Gold Coast Bulletin. 

‘Also, you’d never want one of your loved ones to die alone or be left undiscovered.’

If you or anyone you know is struggling, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Headspace on 1800 650 890.

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