Playing Doctor

Initial Visit?

Monday, May 9

L'odeur de la mort

One of the disadvantages of being a doctor, if you will indulge me, is recognizing a number of scents that remind one of death and decay.

Recognizing scents can sometimes be an advantage. When walking by a patient’s bathroom, we can tell if someone has a rectal bleed by the smell. When someone sneezes, I can sometimes distinguish the type of bacteria causing their sinusitis.

Once, when I detached a chest tube from the collection cup so I could smell the lung's effluent purulence, a nurse looked at me horrified, saying ‘You are one hardcore doctor.’

‘Mildred!’ I said, smiling with my hands open and at my side, ‘Does that mean I can’t take your daughter to the movies on Friday night?’

‘Oh, you can take her, alright,’ she said, turning and walking out of the room. ‘Just don’t go sniffing anything you ain’t supposed to be sniffing around when you’re with her.’

But diagnostic scents are uncommon and don’t effect me much outside of work. A bit more intrusive are the scents of association. Two in particular are problems for me. The first is perhaps more curious than the second.

When I was in my first year of med school, I would go over the corpses in the gross anatomy lab for an hour or so and then study in the library for several hours after that. Because I was not excited about having the stench of preservatives and dead flesh on me for all of that time, I showered using what I thought would cover up the lingering fumes. It was Doc Bronner’s Lavender soap. A nice enough scent and it did the job.

However, ever since then, whenever someone smells of lavender, all I smell is a 93 year-old secretary who died of Alzheimer’s disease.

The other scent is a bit more direct. But the story turned out to be more complex than I anticipated, so welcome to...

The Smell of Death Week

...only here at Playing Doctor.

Tomorrow: Prelude


Blogger hot babe writes:

(note to self- don't read this blog over lunch hour)

Smells are funny. Ever since my dad's funeral over 7 yrs ago, flowers smell like death to me. And the smell hairspray reminds me of jr high when I had huge bangs. Different brands remind me of different years. Scary.

Today I noticed that a co-worker smelled like one of those scratch-n-sniff stickers. I can't remember which sticker, though. Thankfully not skunk, but it was pungent.


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